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Study: Deadly states for teen drivers
Washington, D.C. ranks highest in teen driving fatalities, New Hampshire considered lowest.
July 29, 2005: 2:42 PM EDT
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Washington D.C. is considered deadlier for young motorists than any state, according to a recent survey.

The study, which ranked the states and the District of Columbia according to fatality rates among drivers ages 16 to 20, determined that in 2003, approximately 127 fatalities occured for every 100,000 young motorists in the nation's capital.

The study, conducted by the traffic safety group End Needless Death on Our Roadways (END) and the National Safety Council, was based on 2003 data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's and the Federal Highway Administration.

States ranked by teen driver death rates

"Youth-related driving fatalities are an epidemic in the United States," said Dr. Thomas Esposito, the co-chair of END and Director of Loyola University Medical Center's Injury Analysis and Prevention Program, in a statement.

"Young drivers, their passengers and passengers in other vehicles are dying needlessly because many young motorists are not given proper guidance, or when unsupervised, choose to participate in unsafe driving behavior during their early driving experience," he said.

Following behind the District of Columbia as the deadliest states for teen drivers were North Carolina, Mississippi, Delaware and Louisiana.

New Hampshire reported the lowest rate of teen fatalities with 35.8 per 100,000 teenage drivers in 2003, according to the study, while Connecticut, New Jersey and Massachusetts also experienced a low rate of traffic fatalities among teenagers in that same year.

Drivers aged 16 to 20, who make up six percent of the driving population nationwide, are involved in 20 percent of all fatal motor vehicle crashes, according to END.

Russ Rader, a spokesperson for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), says that the lack of maturity in teen drivers and their penchant for taking risks is to blame for the high rate of accidents among young motorists.

"They think they're immortal and they don't recognize the dangers of risky driving," he said.

END and the National Safety Council, the groups that conducted the study, urge parents to enforce a stricter set of rules for their teens.

They suggest parents have a novice driver spend 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving with a licensed adult in the car. Parents should also restrict the number of passengers riding with a teen younger than 18 and deny driving privileges for any alcohol violations. Unsupervised nighttime driving between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. should be prohibited until age 18, they suggested.

"If lawmakers see these recommendations and think they would make good legislation we would applaud them," said John Pastuovic, the executive director of END.

"Our intention is to help influence parents to address this situation and to give them the tools to do that," he said.

As of April 2004, 38 states require new drivers to earn their driving privileges through a graduated license system, where teens slowly earn greater rights after meeting certain requirements.

The conditions for earning a license vary by state. Most states with graduated licensing systems require that teen drivers spend a set number of driving hours with a licensed adult and adhere to certain other restrictions such as limiting the number of teen passengers in a vehicle.

Failing to meet those conditions or violating a restriction can make it take longer to get a full driver's license.

Rader said his group has not conducted comparative state studies on the relationship between stringent driving restrictions and teen crashes.

A recent study by IIHS however shows that fatal crashes among 16-year-old drivers have fallen by 11 percent between 1993 and 2003, after most of these graduated programs were rolled out, Rader says that drop is not solely attributable to graduated licensing programs nor are they the only solution in preventing teen driving deaths.

"Graduated licensing is one thing that has worked to an extent, but it is not a panacea," he said. "The law doesn't solve the problem. You need parental enforcement."

States ranked by teen driver death rates

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