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Teen deaths tied to car crashes on Long Island reached a record high in 2023. Here's what may be to blame.

Teen deaths tied to car crashes on Long Island reached a record high in 2023
Teen deaths tied to car crashes on Long Island reached a record high in 2023 02:10

LONG ISLAND, N.Y. -- A record-high number of young Long Island drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 were killed last year. The preliminary statistics come as teens who learned to drive prior to that time did so during New York State Department of Motor Vehicles COVID flexibility training.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death among U.S. teens, and 2023 was Long Island's deadliest with 32 fatalities.

"It's not surprising because of all the trends in traffic safety that we've seen over the last few years since COVID," said Alec Slatsky, spokesman for AAA Northeast.

Here's what changed during the pandemic  

Jack Goldfried of Dix Hills said he passed his road test without ever having an in-car driver's ed teacher. New York state post-pandemic flexibilities allowed remote learning and family instructors.

"From my experience, it was totally online. I took it in my bedroom. There was no instructor. I never got to drive with an instructor," the 17-year-old said. "Basically, my parents were supposed to be my instructors."

The New York DMV says despite changes during the pandemic, "We are confident the road test properly evaluated the skills needed to pass and become licensed drivers."  

However, veteran driver's education director Richard Faber of Syosset High School said he sees a correlation in the surge in teen deaths and eased pandemic licensing requirements. He said he is skeptical most teens actually drove the required 74 hours.

"How do you track that? The road test, five to seven minutes long, and now get a license for the rest of your life," Faber said.

Speeding is an epidemic among young drivers, officials say  

The top reasons for teen crashes are distractions, failure to yield, improper lane changes, and, the usual number one, speeding. Officials who spoke to CBS New York said the pandemic era made speeding worse for young drivers and it has now become an epidemic.

"If you are a young person just learning to drive you have to factor in all these conflicts and dangers in real time," said Eric Alexander of Vision Long Island.

That includes dealing with winding, hilly, and tree-lined roads and curving Long Island parkways that were built when cars went 30 mph.

"Long Island has some of the most dangerous roads in the state," Alexander said.

"You have an inexperienced driver with all this power. Behind them, another kid in the car saying 'Go faster' on a road that wasn't meant for these cars," Faber added.

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