Despite the fact that the number of 16 and 17 year old driver deaths is at a low point compared to the last decade, the first half of 2012 experienced a spike in teenagers dying behind the wheel.
Compared to the first half of 2011, an additional 24 percent of 16-year-olds were killed in the first half of 2012. There was also a 15 percent spike in deaths among 17-year-olds. 2011 was the first year since 2002 that teenage deaths increased overall, with the trend continuing on an upwards path in 2012.
Reasons for the spike are varied, but a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) said the economy is a leading factor. From 2007 to 2010, the number of drivers under 20 dying behind the wheel decreased dramatically, presumably because of the recession, which tends to hit teenagers the hardest. The fact that the economy has begun to turn around is one of the largest factors cited for the increase in deaths, as most teens can once again afford to drive.
The other factor cited is the recent slow down in the introduction of graduated driver licensing (GDL). GDL laws were widely adopted between 1998 and 2010, but have since slowed down. The basic components of GDL are a longer period with a learners permit, restrictions on late-night driving, and driving with young passengers.