The bad news is that car crashes remain the leading cause of death for American teenagers. The good news is that increased seat belt use, reduced distractions and improved safe driving skills have resulted in a 47 percent decline in teen driver-related fatalities over the past 6 years.

Miles to Go: Focusing on Risks for Teen Driver Crashes, a new teen driver safety report from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and State Farm, reveals a safer landscape for teen drivers and their passengers. Key findings include:

  • From 2008 to 2011, the number of teen passengers (ages 15 to 19 years) killed in crashes not wearing seat belts decreased 23 percent.
  • In this same time period, the number of teen passengers driven by a peer who had been drinking declined 14 percent.
  • Additionally, 30 percent fewer teen passengers were killed in crashes involving a teen driver during this time period.
  • In 2011, more than half of teen passengers (54 percent) reported “always” buckling up.
  • Overall, the report measured a 47 percent decline in teen driver-related fatalities over the past 6 years.

The report, the third in an annual series, provides evidence to support stronger Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs, which allow teens to gain experience under lower-risk conditions. A comprehensive GDL program includes at least 50 hours of adult-supervised practice under varied conditions, limits teen passengers for the first year of independent driving, restricts unsupervised nighttime driving, requires seat belt use for the driver and all passengers, and prohibits cell phone use while driving.