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After reviewing years of statistics on traffic-related teen deaths, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is recommending that states raise the legal driving age to 17, or even 18. According to the IIHS, car crashes are the number one cause of deaths in teens and they feel increasing the age to 17 or 18 would save lives.

The IIHS report points to statistics from the state of New Jersey where the driving age has been 17 for several years and the rate of 16 and 17 teenage deaths were 18 per 100,000. In neighboring Connecticut, where the minimum driving age is 16, the rate is 26 deaths per 100,000.

“This is a tough sell,” says Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research, “but it’s an important enough issue to challenge the silence and at least consider changing the age at which we allow teenagers to get their licenses to drive. After all, graduated licensing has been successful ever since states began to adopt these programs more than a decade ago, and raising the licensing age is a logical next step to reduce driving by the riskiest motorists on the road, the youngest ones.”

According to the Washington Post:

More than 5,000 U.S. teens die each year in car crashes. The rate of crashes, fatal and nonfatal, per mile driven for 16-year-old drivers is almost 10 times the rate for drivers ages 30 to 59, according to the National Highway Safety Administration. Many industrialized countries in Europe and elsewhere have a driving age of 17 or 18.

Many states have initiated strict graduated driver”s licenses which they believe are saving lives. Getting the state legislatures to increase the age to 17 will be difficult and it will be an uphill battle with most parents and the teenagers. Teenagers want their freedom and a lot of parents look forward to dropping “chauffeur” from their list of parental responsibilities.

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