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Utah Ranks Among Lowest for Young Driver Fatalities

Utah Ranks Among Lowest for Young Driver Fatalities

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah has one of the lowest rates in the country of young drivers involved in traffic fatalities.

In a study released Thursday by the National Safety Council, Utah was ranked 46th in the nation -- with No. 1 being the worst.

In 2003, Utah had 44.5 involved in fatalities per 100,000 16- to 20-year-old drivers.

New Hampshire had the lowest rate at 35.8, while Washington, D.C., had the worst rate at 127.

John Pastuovic, spokesman for the National Safety Council, said there were no discernible patterns among the states that ranked the best or the worst.

Like Utah, many states have implemented graduated driver-licensing laws, which include restrictions on nighttime driving and underage passengers before teens can earn a full license.

However, many of those same states have high rates of deaths among young drivers, Pastuovic said. In contrast, some states with no graduated driver-licensing laws had among the lowest rates of death.

A recent study by the Intermountain Injury Control Research Center at the University of Utah School of Medicine showed there was a 5 percent reduction in the rate of crashes among 16-year-old drivers in Utah after the stricter licensing laws were implemented beginning in 1999. That equates to about nine fewer crashes per 1,000 licensed 16-year-old drivers per year.

Mark Panos, deputy director of the Utah Highway Safety Office, said Utah's lower fatality rate could be, in part, a result of education programs, such as "Click it or ticket."

"Maybe they (young drivers) are starting to get into those safe habits," he said. "Maybe they are more aware of some of the fatality-causing issues."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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