By Paul Kurtz

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The number of teenage driving deaths continues to rise, according to a new study released by the Governors’ Highway Safety Administration.

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The study found that 240 sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds were killed in traffic accidents across the United States during the first six months of 2012, an increase of 19 percent from the previous year.  The teen death toll rose in 25 states, eight states were unchanged, and 17 — including Pennsylvania and New Jersey — saw their the numbers drop.

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Jan McKnight, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, points to a number of factors for the decline in the state, including tougher seat belt laws and the graduated driver’s license program.

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“It’s a program wherein we give our kids more behind-the-wheel driving experience before they can get their driver’s license,” she explains.  “And it makes perfect sense. It’s more experience doing what they have to be doing when they’re out on their own.”

But she says the nationwide trend is disturbing.

The country is now on track to record its second straight year of increases in deaths of teen drivers.  The three-percent rise in 2011 ended eight straight years of declines.

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