We forgot about speed.
To make roadways safer for teens, the nation has focused much attention on such critical issues as distracted driving and driving under the influence.
But speeding — which is arguably even more critical — has largely escaped such notice. Meanwhile, speeding as a factor in fatal teen crashes is ticking up, from 30% in 2000 to 33% in 2011, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association.
If the USA is to continue making progress in teen driving safety, it must address speeding, says Susan Ferguson, an established highway safety consultant who authored the report.
"Speeding is something people aren't particularly concerned about," Ferguson says. "Speed limits have been going up across the country since they repealed the (national) 55 mph speed limit in 1995.
"This is the first time, really, that we've focused on this issue exclusively. We've known for a while that speeding is an issue for young drivers, especially for young males," she says.
Half of all fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers with three or more passengers are speeding-related, according to the report. "Unless speeding is recognized as a dangerous behavior, much the same as alcohol-impaired driving, it will continue to be difficult to address as a society," the report says. "More attention must be paid to this issue at the federal, state and local levels, and within the private sector. As well, parents should be taking the lead to do more to address speeding behavior among their teen drivers."
Among the most common speeding scenarios for teen drivers: young males driving at night with other teen passengers.
The report comes just as the deadliest season for young drivers gets underway: Eight of the 10 deadliest days of the year for teens on the roads occur during June, July and August, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.