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Why are older teen drivers more at risk of a fatal accident?

Most parents would more than likely agree that older teens are inherently more trustworthy, emotionally mature and fiscally responsible than their younger teen counterparts. By extension, it would then follow that the majority of parents would also more than likely agree that teens between the ages of 18 to 20 are inherently better drivers than teens between the ages of 15 to 17.

According to a recent study by the Detroit-based Ford Motor Company as part of its Safe Driving for Life program, this is actually far from the case. Indeed, the study found that the rate of fatal car accidents involving younger teens has fallen considerably over the last decade, declining much faster than the rate among older teens.   

Why exactly are older teens at a seemingly higher risk of fatal accidents behind the wheel?

According to officials with the Ford program, the reason for this somewhat shocking phenomenon is actually relatively simple: Once teens reach the age of 18, they are no longer required to complete a driver's education course and, perhaps more significantly, go through a graduated driver's licensing program.

For those unfamiliar with graduated driver's licensing programs, they have been adopted in the majority of states, including here in Michigan, and call for younger and inexperienced teen drivers to be subjected to restrictions (no cell phones, passenger limitations, restricted hours of operation, etc.) that are phased out as he or she slowly but steadily gains more experience behind the wheel.       

Graduated driver's licensing programs have been deemed such a success that advocacy groups like the Governors Highway Safety Association are now calling on state legislatures to make them mandatory for older teen drivers.

While this is a long way from happening, officials with the Ford program indicate that parents can help keep their novice older teen drivers safe by introducing makeshift driver's education courses and graduated driver's licensing programs in their own homes.

For example, they urge parents to talk about just how dangerous distracted driving is -- a topic now covered in detail in most driver's ed. courses -- and to introduce provisional rules covering everything from the number of passengers to curfews.

Here's hoping more parents consider this step …

If you've been seriously injured or lost a loved one in an accident caused by the negligence of another motorist, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your rights and options for pursuing justice.   

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