Teen Drivers

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(Knoxville) WVLT - Should the age to obtain a learners permit be increased to the age of 16, instead of 15?

That's just one of the questions being raised after new data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration ranks Tennessee low on teen driving safety.

Forty-fourth out of 50 states and the District of Columbia is where Tennessee ranks, for the lowest number of teen driving deaths.

That means only six states have more teens die in traffic accidents.

The data looks at teens age 16 to 19.

The latest numbers available, for 2005, show 115 teens lost their lives in car crashes.

This includes those in the car, pedestrians, and those on motorcycle or bike.

Nationwide car crashes are the leading cause for teen deaths, especially 16 year olds. Nearly 4,500 died in 2005.

In this particular data, it wasn't just Tennessee ranking poorly, the southern region in general had high fatality rates for teens.

Of the bottom ten this data compiled, half are in the south.

The rate Tennessee teens are dying in car crashes is alerting officials to look at the restrictive teen driving laws passed six years ago.

It's called a graduated driver's license system.

With experience and age teens get more privileges.

Learners permits are allowed at 15. After that, when teens can drive varies.

For example, with an intermediate license you can drive until 11:00 pm.

Tennessee also does not require any type of drivers education to obtain a license, which is gaining a lot of criticism as one of the big reasons we rank so poorly.

Some say drivers ed is a must and that the ages in the graduated system need to be modified .

Others wonder if that would make a difference, considering Washington D.C. and New York have some of the fewest teen driver fatalities in the nation, and they have never had mandatory drivers ed.

The newest data for 2006 won't be available until sometime early fall.

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