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The kids are going to be alright. In the past ten years, the rates of fatalities among the youngest age group of drivers (21 and under) have dropped off dramatically. Decision makers believe the improved safety is due to better drivers’ education and longer lead-in times for full driving privileges. Read on to see how the numbers break down.

The Governors Highway Safety Association has been collecting data on fatal collisions and recently published its 2002 to 2021 findings. Drivers under 21 have always been the most at-risk demographic, and continue to be. But in the past decade alone, they have become 38% less likely to be involved in a fatal collision. And the findings get even brighter: the same age group has become 45% less likely to be the victim of that fatal collision.

Teenage boy sitting in a car driver's seat gets handed the keys.
Young driver | Kuzma via iStockPhoto

So what is going on here? Cars are getting safer. And teens often drive older “hand-me-down” cars. So perhaps safety technology is finally catching up to them. In addition, maybe being connected online means young people spend less time driving around–either to see each other, or just aimlessly. Or possibly, this generation is simply more responsible than previous ones.

The GHSA has its own theories. The Association points out that over the past ten years, it has become increasingly common for states to give teen drivers responsibility in stages. Perhaps they can only drive during daylight at first or without passengers. In some places, they can travel on surface streets but not highways.

A young woman in the driver's seat of a car holds up her new license.
Young driver | Vitalii Petrushenko

The Association also believes drivers’ education is getting better. And I buy that. My drivers’ ed class used a bunch of VHS tapes with a few paper exams at the end. I’m sure the latest curriculum is much more advanced.

Whatever the reason for improving safety numbers, parents of teens and young people have a lot to celebrate with the falling fatality rates among drivers under 21. This is at the same time that overall accident numbers and pedestrian fatalities are on the rise. Maybe a new generation of drivers can teach us all how to be safer on the roads.

Next, read why letting teens do donuts builds safer drivers, or learn more about the risks young drivers face in the video below: