Driving after dark always has its risks, but a new study finds that the number of nighttime fatalities involving teenage drivers has risen well beyond that of the rest of the population, and cellphones are the likely cause.
The number of fatal crashes in the U.S. has gone down sharply, over the past decade, but there was an increase in the percentage of such accidents occuring after dark.
The percentage of deadly nighttime crashes involving drivers 16 to 19 years old increased sharply between 1999 and 2008, according to research by the Texas Transportation Institute. During the first year of the study, there were 6,368 fatal crashes involving those teen driver, 2,875, or 45 percent, of them at night. By 2008, the overall number of fatal crashes involving drivers 16 to 19 actually fell, to 4,322, but those occurring after dark increased to 50%, or 2,148 overall.
That works out to a 10% increase while, by comparison, there was only an 8% increase among drivers 20 and older, the TTI found.
The Institute suggests that alcohol use is likely to blame for the problem among drivers over 20, but it points the finger at cellphones – both for talking and texting — for the rising nighttime fatality rate among teens.