(CBS) — Teen deaths have been dropping radically and the Secretary of State says part of that is a new tougher introduction to rules of the road, reports WBBM’s John Cody.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White says teenage driving fatalities have dropped 55%, from 155 down to 71 per year since 2007 due in large part to a longer training period and stricter rules on passengers,

“You have to spend nine months behind the wheel. Of those nine months with your parents, 10 of those hours will be at night and then you can only have one unrelated person with you in the automobile because we found that friends have the tendency to encourage you to do things that you should not do,” White said.

Secretary White spoke at the Thompson Center at an awards ceremony honoring Nequa Valley High School’s driver education program. Nequa Valley High School student Anna Spreitzer suggests the graduated driver licensing program works, especially in school.

Spreitzer says it has been a long time since her parents learned how to drive and suggests her driving teachers are more focused on current driving problems like texting and cell phone use behind the wheel.

“It’s like more up-to-date in class so you know the new rules of the road, so it’s better,” said Speitzer.

Secretary White says that before GDL started, auto crashes were the leading cause of death for Illinois teens.