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Teen Driver Deaths Increase in First Half of 2011: New Report

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The number of 16 and 17-year-old drivers killed in automobile-related incidents increased 11 percent during the first six months of the year 2011, according to a new report.

Data released by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) on Thursday shows a 16 percent jump in the deaths of 16-year-old drivers during the first half of last year, while the number of 17-year-old drivers who died edged up 7 percent. Of the 23 states that reported increased fatalities, Florida, Texas and North Carolina were among the states with the most significant increases, the report revealed.

The findings could spell the end of years of progress on the issue.

“If the trend continued for the second half of 2011, it will mark the end of eight straight years of cumulative declines in deaths for this age group,” the group said in announcing its findings.

The data was compiled by Dr. Allan Williams, formerly of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“Dr. Williams attributes much of the increase to the fact that the benefit of state Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws may be leveling off, as most of these laws have been in place for some time,” the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit said. “Additionally, Dr. Williams speculates that improving economic conditions are contributing to an increase in teen driving, thus increasing their exposure to risk.”

The GHSA notes that its report, “comes as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released a statistical projection suggesting that total motor vehicle deaths for the first six months of 2011 declined 0.9 percent.”

Meanwhile, transportation officials issued new guidelines Thursday aimed at limiting driver distractions.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood worries that drivers pay too much attention to their dashboards and too little attention to the road. In 2010, LaHood said, more than 3,000 people were killed in crashes involving distracted driving.

"While it is good news that overall deaths appear to have declined during the first six months of 2011, we are concerned that the trend with teens is going in the opposite direction," GHSA chairman Troy E. Costales said in a statement.

"As parents, we must set and enforce strict rules for our new drivers, making sure risks are minimized,” Costales said. “This includes limiting other teens in the car, limiting nighttime driving and absolutely prohibiting any type of cell phone or electronic device use while driving."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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