Young cause 22% of fatal accidents


DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A survey of state traffic data ranks Iowa third in the nation, behind Delaware and Maine, in the percentage of fatal crashes involving young drivers, up from 25th the year before.

The survey by the Coalition to End Needless Deaths on Our Roadways, a physician-led organization, showed that 88 deadly crashes in Iowa in 2005 – or just under 20 percent – involved a driver between the ages of 16 and 20.

That compares to 79 accidents in 2004, which actually made up a higher percentage of young driver-related crashes at nearly 20.3 percent.

Iowa trailed only Delaware and Maine in the percentage of fatal wrecks involving young drivers in 2005 – the latest year the data was available.

In Maine, about 22 percent of all crashes involved a driver between 16 and 20 in 2005, according to the report. Maine ranked No. 3 in 2004, behind the District of Columbia and Delaware.

Dr. Tom Esposito, co-chairman of the group, said states have made changes, including graduated drivers licensing laws, but little progress has been made in reducing those accidents.

“But all told, the death toll is not changing much,” Esposito said. “The continuing high number of deaths at the hands of our youngest drivers is unacceptable.”

Nationally in 2005, 16 percent of all fatal crashes involved a young driver, down from just over 20 percent in 2004.

One reason for Iowa’s jump in the rankings is the success of other states in reducing young driver-related crashes, said Bob Thompson, program evaluator with the Iowa Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau.

“We improved a little bit,” he said. “We just didn’t have a dramatic change as the whole country did. We only had a few tenths of percentage improvement.”

Dr. Andrea Barthwell, a co-chair of the doctor-led group that released the survey, said the solution lies in tougher graduated license and seat belt laws, and more parent and teen education.

She said many states have enacted more laws and programs to reduce the numbers.

“The data tells us, however, that there is much more work to be done,” Barthwell said.

Wisconsin and Missouri rounded out the top five states with the highest percentage of fatal crashes involving young drivers.

At the bottom of the list – those state’s with the lowest percentage of young driver-related deaths – are Alaska, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Wyoming and Montana.

The list, also sponsored by the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma, is based on each state’s traffic fatality records.

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