Teenage traffic deaths declined nearly 17% in 2009 from 2008 for youths aged 15 to 19, the CDC says in a new report. That's about 500 fewer deaths, for a total of about 3,000.

The CDC, in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for Oct. 22, says that the traffic death rate has improved partly because of graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs. Such programs extend the period for learner's licenses, place driving restrictions on young drivers, and limit the number of passengers allowed in their vehicles.

Not only did the national teenage traffic death rate decline in 2009 for 15- to 19-year-olds, but drivers aged 16 and 17 involved in fatal crashes declined 38% between 2004 and 2008, to a rate of 16.7 per 100,000 people, the MMWR report says.

Authors of the article in the MMWR describe the trends as "encouraging" but point out that motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for teenagers.

Source: WebMD