Arkansas Teen Drivers Have Higher Fatality Rates, AAA Says

December 31, 2008

Teenage drivers in Arkansas have a higher rate of traffic fatalities than any other category of drivers in the state, and the AAA wants the state to further restrict driving by young people.

The AAA, formerly the American Automobile Association, wants the Legislature to strengthen its graduated driver license system, adding restrictions that include what time of day a teenager is allowed to drive.

The AAA, which provides auto club and travel services, and lobbies on traffic-related proposals, has produced a pamphlet that’s intended to raise awareness of its assessment of teen drivers and to pressure legislators to make changes.

The group said 453 Arkansans between age 16 and 20 were killed in traffic crashes between 2003 and 2007. The group says more than 50,000 teenagers were hurt in crashes over the same five years.

“Teenagers make up about 7 percent of the driving population in Arkansas, but they constitute about 13 percent of the drivers involved in fatal crashes,” AAA spokesman Mike Right said. “And it’s not just the teens themselves who are injured and die in these crashes. Almost 20 percent of the deaths on Arkansas roads occur in crashes involving teen drivers.”

The AAA wants the state to raise the minimum age for a learner’s license from 14 to 16 and require an applicant to have taken a driver-education course before the permit can be issued. The learner would also have to have 50 hours of certified practice, including night driving. The age for an intermediate license would be kept at 16, under the AAA’s proposal, but would bar holders from driving between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Both the learner’s and intermediate licenses would bar use of cell phones and instant messaging while driving.

The AAA has more than 51 million members.

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