Teens 16% of Crash Victims, U.S. Says

By Mary Otto
Washington Post Staff Write
Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Traffic injuries on the nation's highways have declined every year since 1995, but teenagers continue to be disproportionately affected by crashes, according to figures released yesterday by the U.S. Transportation Department.

Teenagers make up more than 16 percent of all crash-related victims, even though they make up only 8 percent of the driving public, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters said yesterday during a visit to a suburban Maryland high school.

"In the test of life, teenage drivers are failing at twice the rate as the rest of us," Peters told about 50 juniors and seniors at Severna Park High School in Anne Arundel County. She used the school as a backdrop to announce the latest traffic safety statistics and to promote new safe-driving initiatives aimed at teenagers.

Those national initiatives include grants to promote seat belt use and discourage drunken driving, and a competition to develop innovative advertising and educational materials to encourage young people to drive safely.

Two states will be awarded $300,000 each to promote seat belt use, and two states will be awarded $100,000 each to help combat drunken driving through detection technology. The states that will receive the grants have not been identified.

To help improve teen road safety, youths will be encouraged to develop new ways to spread the information. The winner will receive $5,000, and the message will be widely disseminated.

"Take your driving seriously," Peters told the students. "Put down your cellphone, and stop text messaging. You can get back to your friends once you've turned off the ignition, but you can never get your life back."

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