It seems like there are far too many studies reporting bad outcomes where teens are involved; too much drinking, eating, smoking and risky behaviors.
However, a recent study concludes that fatal car crashes involving teens have dropped by over half in the last decade. Researchers believe one reason may be that more teenagers are receiving driving licenses attached with restrictions.
"Many factors are probably at play, but there is wide agreement the graduated licensing programs are an important contributor to the decline in fatal crashes," lead study author Ruth Shults, an injury prevention researcher at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said in an to email to Reuters Health.
Graduated licenses may limit teens from diving at night as well as restrict how many teenage passengers can ride in a car with a teen driver.
Shults says that may be partly responsible for reducing the overall crash rate by 20 to 40 percent.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of drivers aged 16 to 19 involved in fatal crashes fell by 55 percent to 2,568 in 2013, down from 5,724 in 2004, supported by an increase in graduated licenses programs.
The numbers may also be down because some teenagers are waiting till they are 18 to get their driving license, said Eric Teoh, a senior statistician at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Arlington, Virginia.
"An 18-year-old novice is probably more prepared maturity-wise than a 16-year-old novice," said Teoh, who wasn't involved in the study.
Many parents have changed what they look for in a car for their teenager. Newer models have better safety features - such as electronic stability to help keep the car in line if the driver loses control. That one feature alone may also be a contributing factor in fewer crashes.
Across 42 states included in the survey, the proportion of high school students who drive ranged from about 53 percent to about 90 percent, with the highest rates in the mid-western and mountain states, where population density is low. West coast states including California, Washington and Oregon were among eight excluded from the study.
In cities, fewer students drove, which may be related to family income, shorter travel distances and wider use of public transportation or alternatives such as walking or bicycling.
Nationwide in 2013, about three in four high school students 16 and older reported driving in the past month; the proportion was lower among black and Hispanic teens compared to white youth.
The economy may have also played a role in the reduction of teen drivers. Less dispensable money may have forced teens to look for alternative means such as public transportation, bicycles or walking.
"The economic downturn resulted in changes in the way people drive, with people taking fewer elective trips," said Raymond Bingham, a professor at the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor, who wasn't involved in the study.
Leisure trips, as opposed to driving to work or school, are associated with more crashes, Bingham said.
Whatever the reasons, it’s good to know that more of our teenage drivers are living to grow into adulthood and making it pass the turbulent adolescent years.
Source: Lisa Rapaport, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/08/us-health-teens-drivers-crashes-idUSKBN0MZ21020150408