Crashes declining, figures show.

Although traffic crashes remain the No. 1 cause of death

among teens across the U.S., the number of teen driver fatalities in

Oklahoma has been on a steady downward trend.

“We are thankful to see that fatalities in this age group have been

decreasing in our state the past several years,” said Oklahoma Highway Safety Office Director Garry Thomas.

“We attribute this trend partially to the Graduated Driver License law; however, we consider every fatal crash a tragedy and we would like to see this number go down even more.”

Oklahoma’s Graduated Driver License (GDL) law was implemented in 1999 and strengthened by additional legislation in 2005. Since 2005, the number of drivers age 16-19 involved in motor vehicle crashes has declined 28 percent, from 18,895 in 2005 to 13,614 in 2012.

The GDL law allows teen drivers to gain experience behind the wheel under low-risk conditions and sets up a three-tier teen licensing system tied to driver’s education.

The law places restrictions on teen driver behavior, including limitations on the number of passengers and the time of day driving is allowed. Oklahoma law bans the use of handheld electronic devices for those with learner or intermediate licenses.

Thomas said many factors can affect youthful drivers.

“Inexperience and immaturity, combined with speed, drinking and driving, not wearing seat belts, and distractions all contribute to teen-related crashes,” he said. “The sad fact is that many of the collisions taking these precious lives are preventable. By limiting distractions, buckling up, and driving smart, teen drivers can greatly reduce their risk on the road."

Of the 31 drivers age 16-19 killed in 2012 crashes in Oklahoma, 27 had an Oklahoma driver license. Of those 27 drivers, four were involved in one other collision between 2009 and 2012. Of the other 23 drivers killed, the fatal crash in 2012 was their first and last crash.

“This shows that one bad decision can result in catastrophic consequences,” Thomas said. “During Teen Driver Safety Week, we encourage parents and family members to talk to young drivers about the importance of making good choices. Our goal at the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office is to decrease the number and severity of traffic crashes for all age groups and to make

Oklahoma highways safe for everyone.”

For more information on Oklahoma’s Graduated Driver License law, visit

For more information about National Teen Driver Safety Week, visit