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Last week near Gadsden, Alabama a 20-year-old driver of a Jeep died in a head-on automobile collision with a Honda Accord driven by a 16-year-old. The driver of the Accord, along with her 14-year-old passenger, were seriously injured. The 24-year-old driver of the Jeep, as well as a 19-year-old passenger, were also seriously injured in the accident. (See the story in The Gadsden Times, August 6, 2009)

Accidents such as this remind us of the dangers associated with teen aged driving. According to the CDC, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for more than one in three deaths in this age group. In 2005, 12 teens ages 16 to 19 died every day from motor vehicle injuries. According to the CDC, although young people ages 15-24 represent only 14% of the U.S. population, they account for 30% ($19 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males and 28% ($7 billion) of such costs among females. Among teen drivers, those at especially high risk for motor vehicle crashes are males, teens driving with teen passengers, and newly licensed teens. The CDC has found that, compared to older drivers, teens are more likely to speed, more likely to underestimate dangerous conditions, less likely to wear seatbelts, and more susceptible to the effects of alcohol or drugs.

Fortunately, there are proven methods to helping teens become safer drivers. For example, research compiled by the CDC suggests that the most comprehensive graduated drivers licensing (GDL) programs are associated with reductions of 38% and 40% in fatal and injury crashes, respectively, among 16-year-old drivers. Simply put, graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems are designed to delay full licensure while allowing teens to get their initial driving experience under low-risk conditions. For more information about GDL systems, see the Teens Behind the Wheel: Graduated Licensing fact sheet.

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