In it’s forthcoming November issue, US News and World Report has ranked California as the best state for teen drivers, placing second only behind the District of Colombia. California should be proud, as the list is based on nothing short of definitive. US News based its research first on road safety and vehicle death data from the federal government and second on dual assessments on a variety of safety issues by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The result was promising, leaving California at the top of an elite list of safe driving states.
Over the past ten years, there have been an average of 500 teen driver deaths in California. With nearly a million teen drivers, that statistic is more encouraging than many other states. Of those tragic deaths, US News reports, 0.2 percent (about 10) were the result of alcohol or drugs. US News also credited California with excellent seat belt, distracted driving, and red light speeding camera laws, but said that teen driver’s license restrictions and DUI laws remain insufficient.
The data was released on the US News website in April, but printed in the magazine at a time when teen auto deaths are beginning to look encouraging. Over the past five years, for example, teen auto deaths have reduced 38 percent nationwide. In California, this reduction has been attributed to tough teen driving laws and the economic recession, which is leading fewer teenagers to get their own cars and spend on gas.
“It’s not that teens are becoming safer,” said Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “It’s that state laws enacted in the last 15 years are taking teens out of the most hazardous driving situations.” Rader points to laws curbing driving at night and with other teenagers as the most important.
Clearly, 500 teen auto deaths is nothing to celebrate. The state of California needs to continue improving laws related to distracted driving and teen driver’s licenses in order to maintain its safety record and save lives.
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