June 2009

Study analyzes grad driving laws

A new U.S. report on graduated driver licensing concludes several criteria make for a system that can be expected to lead to the greatest reductions in teen car crash deaths: delays in driver licensing age, strong night driving restrictions and restrictions on teenage passengers. Graduated driver licensing systems with differing restrictions have been implemented in virtually all Canadian jurisdictions, throughout the U.S. and in other countries over the last decade or so. The idea behind it is that beginning drivers are restricted to getting their initial experience under lower risk conditions (e.g., with a supervising driver in the front seat with them, away from busy highways, without any alcohol, in daylight hours, etc.) before they graduate to a second, less restrictive stage and after successfully completing that, to an unrestricted full licence.

The research project published in May 2009, Graduated Licensing Laws and Fatal Crashes of Teenage Drivers: A National Study, performed for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety compared the systems and results in all the states to find the aspects that had the greatest impact. The Traffic Injury Research Foundation in Canada performed a similar project several years ago. #Why and when teens crash The report notes “crash rates for young drivers are high because of their immaturity combined with their inexperience with driving. The crash rate of teenage drivers is particularly high during the first months of licensure, when their lack of experience behind the wheel makes it difficult for them to recognize and respond to hazards. Immaturity is apparent in young drivers’ risky driving practices such as speeding… Teenage crash risk is particularly elevated at night and when carrying teenage passengers.” Laws that the researchers rated as “good” based on their components achieved 30% lower fatal crash rates among 15-17-year-olds compared with laws rated “poor”. “Graduated licensing laws that include strong nighttime and passenger restrictions and laws that delay the learner’s permit age and licensing age are highly effective strategies for reducing teenage fatal crashes,” the report concludes. “States that adopt such laws can expect to achieve substantial reductions in crash deaths.”

Updated June 4, 2009