The number of fatal wrecks involving teen drivers increased nationally from 2011 to 2012, according to a recent report.
Unfortunately, the same held true in Forsyth County, which went from no 16- or 17-year-old driver deaths in 2011 to two in 2012.
The report, released last week by the national Governors Highway Safety Association, showed the number of 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths rose dramatically for the first six months of 2012, based on preliminary data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Overall, such fatalities increased 19 percent, from 202 to 240.
The report was the first state-by-state look at teen driver fatalities in 2012 and was completed by Allan Williams, a researcher who formerly served as chief scientist at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Though the findings show fatalities increasing, Williams said deaths in this age group remain at a historically low level.
“We are still at a much better place than we were 10 or even five years earlier,” he said in a statement. “However, the goal is to strive toward zero deaths, so our aim would be that these deaths should go down every year.”
In Forsyth County, two 17-year-olds lost their lives in separate wrecks last year.
Marimar Alvarez, a Forsyth Central High School senior, died in a single-vehicle wreck on her way to work Sept. 8.
According to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, Alavarez “lost control” of the 1995 Monte Carlo she was driving in a curve on Spot Road.
The vehicle left the road and struck a culvert, which caused it to flip and hit a tree.
On Dec. 10, Kyle Alan Robins, a junior at North Forsyth High, was killed in a two-car collision while taking a friend home from school.
Robins was traveling south on Hendrix Road in a 2002 Pontiac Grand Am “at a high rate of speed when it came into the curve at the Dexter subdivision,” according to the sheriff’s office initial report.
The vehicle hydroplaned and hit a northbound truck. The 16-year-old passenger in his car was injured.
While teen driver deaths increased in the U.S. and Forsyth County, they declined in Georgia.
The state Governor’s Office of Highway Safety reported the figures of all traffic fatalities involving a 16- or 17-year-old driver, which included 37 teen fatalities in 2011 and 23 in 2012.
Harris Blackwood, director of the office, said crashes involving young drivers often are preventable.
“All too often, those crashes are avoidable. Think of it this way: We’re putting our most inexperienced drivers out on the road behind two tons of steel,” he said.
The national Governor’s Association of Highway Safety indicated that studies show graduated licensing programs are one of the most effective tools for lowering teen driving fatalities and injuries.
“That tells us that those drivers are spending a little more time in preparation,” said Blackwood of the tiered driving allowances in Georgia and many other states.
Blackwood said he can only hope the downward trend continues.
“I think the greatest thing is that we may reach a curve this year in Georgia. We don’t know yet. But it’s where the numbers have gone down to their lowest, and we hope this is not that year,” he said. “We want teens to be safe; we want everybody to be safe. But these young, inexperienced drivers are out there in a world where there’s so many drivers distracted by all kinds of things.”
Emma Witman of the FCN regional staff contributed to this report.