Teen driving deaths rise 19 percent over past year

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Deaths involving teenage drivers are rising dramatically in the United States and Indiana is one of the states leading the trend.

The Governors Highway Safety Association looked at the first six months of 2012 and found deaths of 16- and 17-year-old drivers up 19 percent over the same period in the previous year.

Sixteen young Indiana drivers died over that time period - 13 more than the year before.

"I am pretty excited," said Jack, a 15-year-old Hamilton Southeastern student.

Jack is one step closer to getting his driver's permit.

"It kinda means freedom in a way," he said.

Jack admits he's a little nervous and afraid he won't be able to focus on the road.

"Our phones are a part of us. If it is not by my side, it feels weird," he said.

But the phone can't be by his side while learning to drive.

"Yeah, I know. It's something I have to learn to deal with," he said.

Sam Ruff runs a program that teaches kids how to drive. He isn't surprised by the nationwide increase in teen driving fatalities. He says teens are too distracted today to be aware.

"If you ask a student to drive from grandparents' house to a local grocery store, a lot of them have a difficult time paying attention to those things while being transported from one place to another," Ruff said.

Driver's education courses are not mandatory in the state of Indiana. That's why, Ruff says, it's important for parents to get kids off the technology gadgets to teach them a lesson about the road.

"I don't think parents generally think about that with a 13-year old. To talk about vehicles, merging, yielding, all those things that go into someone being a better, safer driver," he said.

Jack says he's trying to be more aware of the rules of the road, because he's determined to gain that freedom.

"I don't want to be the kid who didn't have a driver's license because I couldn't pass the exams," he said.

Driver's education programs can make a difference, but most will cost a couple hundred dollars, which keeps some parents from signing up. But, believe it or not, there is such a thing as financial aid or scholarships for driver education. Ask your specific program about any opportunities.