An improving economy means more cars on the road, and traffic safety officials expected the number of deaths among young drivers to increase as a result. But not this much: The number of 16- and 17-year-old drivers killed in traffic accidents jumped 19% in the first six months of 2012, says a new report picked up by USA Today. That's double the rate of the overall population. Barring a remarkable turnaround when the stats come in for the final six months of the year, 2012 will mark the second straight year of an increase in deaths in the age group—2011 saw a 3% spike after eight years of declines.
One expert thinks gains realized from "graduated driver licensing" programs, in which states give teen drivers more freedom as they gain experience, are beginning to level off. Before blaming texting or other versions of distracted driving, note that death rates for teen drivers are still about half of what they were a decade ago, reports the Los Angeles Times. In all, 240 16- and 17-year-olds were killed on the road from January through June of last year. (Read more traffic fatalities stories.)