LUBBOCK, Texas — Derrek Lee Hager had just dropped off his girlfriend in the Texas Panhandle and was headed with four other friends to a nearby town to continue enjoying their spring break.
But the teens never made it, perishing in a fiery wreck near Dumas after the driver ran a stop sign and collided with a tanker loaded with fuel.
The deaths of the five Texas teens came the same day as an accident in Ohio that killed six and a day before a crash in Illinois killed four. Three teenagers died Friday in Indiana when police said the drivers of two pickups ran a four-way stop and collided.
The deadly accidents serve as horrific reminders of the perils of teen driving but contrast statistics indicating that fatal crashes among teen drivers have declined during the past decade, according to a report released last month by the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices. The report also indicates that deaths of younger teen drivers sharply increased during the first six months of last year, reversing a 10-year trend.
There were 435 16-year-old drivers killed in 2000, according to the report, but by 2011 that had dropped to 173. During the same time period, deaths among 17-year-old drivers dropped from 564 to 250.
But deaths of 16- and 17-year-old drivers in traffic accidents during the first six months of 2012 rose a combined 19 percent during the same period of the previous year, from 202 to 240 deaths. The report, which does not include passenger deaths, is based on preliminary state data that sometimes change.
Despite the recent increase, overall teen driving deaths are significantly lower than they were a decade ago, when teen drivers traveled with fewer state-imposed restrictions, including limits on driving with teen passengers and driving at night.