Teen crash deaths decline

ATLANTA, GA (NBC) - Even though teens are far more likely to cause car accidents than more experienced drivers, the number of fatal crashes involving teenage drivers has fallen.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control finds the number of 16- and 17-year-old drivers involved in deadly crashes dropped 36 percent over a five-year period.

The report tracked deaths from 2004-2008.

The CDC largely attributes the decrease to state laws involving graduated licensing programs.

The laws vary among states, but all essentially slow down the rate at which teens are able to drive. Many start with a learner's permit period, when teens can only drive with adults. After a road test, they can drive by themselves with certain restrictions.

"When they do start driving on their own, it's not late at night, it's not with as many teen passengers as they used to have," AAA's Justin McNaull said.

Crashes still remain the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S., although most are preventable, the report says.

"These trends show both how much progress we have made and how much more we can do to reduce motor vehicle crashes, which remain the No. 1 cause of death for teens in the United States," CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden said. "This is a call to action to teen drivers, parents and communities. It's not right that teens would lose their lives on U.S. roads when there are proven methods for helping teens be safer drivers."

While a driver's license can't buy maturity, experts say teen driving restrictions are buying valuable time and saving lives in the process.

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