Road Injury Prevention & Litigation Journal
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(This article is reproduced, with permission, from the website of the Advocates for Highway and Auto
Safety at http://www.saferoads.org.)
In 1998, nearly 42,000 people were killed in traffic crashes and almost 3.2 million more
were injured, at a cost more than $150 billion. Young drivers have much higher fatal
crash rates than other drivers and represent a significant highway safety problem.
Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of American teenagers.
Teen drivers are far more likely than other drivers to be involved in fatal crashes
because they lack driving experience and tend to take greater risks due to their
immaturity. Graduated driver licensing (GDL) is a system that is effective in reducing
young driver crash fatalities. It is designed to introduce young drivers to the driving
experience gradually, by phasing in full driving privileges over time and in lower-risk
Graduated driver licensing consists of a learner's stage, an intermediate driving stage
and an unrestricted driving stage. Optimal provisions of this three tier system include:
- minimum entry age of 16
- held for six months
- all driving must be supervised by an adult
- completion of 30-50 hours of supervised driving
|Intermediate Licenseheld for six months
no unsupervised driving at night until age 18
no more than one teenage passenger
- minimum age of 18 for unrestricted driving privileges
Since 1996, 35 states have adopted some features of GDL, and a smaller number have
adopted all of the key components. In 1998, an unprecedented number of states, 13,
passed some form of a GDL system and more states are now actively considering GDL.
TEEN CRASH FACTS
- In 1998, 7,975 drivers age 15-20 were involved in fatal crashes, in which 3,427
of the young drivers themselves died. An additional 348,000 young drivers were
injured in motor vehicle crashes. (National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration, or NHTSA, 1999)
- Based on estimated miles traveled annually, teen drivers age 16-19 have a
fatality rate four times the rate of drivers age 25-69. (NHTSA, 1998)
- Young people age 15-20 represent less than seven percent of the total driving
population, but they are involved in 14 percent of all fatal traffic crashes.
- Sixteen year-olds have almost ten times the crash risk of drivers age 30-59.
(Williams, A.F., 1996)
- In 1998, of the young drivers who had been drinking and were killed in crashes,
80% were not wearing safety belts. (NHTSA, 1999)
- Twenty-eight percent of young drivers involved in fatal crashes in 1998 had
been drinking alcohol. (NHTSA, 1999)
- Sixty-five percent of teenage passenger deaths take place when another teen is
driving the vehicle. (NHTSA, 1998)
- Forty-one percent of fatal crashes involving teenagers occur at night (between
the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.). (NHTSA, 1998)
GRADUATED DRIVER LICENSING LAW FACTS
- In 1997, the first full year of its GDL system, Florida experienced a nine percent
reduction in fatal and injury crashes for 15-17 year-olds, compared with 1995.
(Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS, 1999)
- Five years after enacting a partial GDL system, California reported a 5.3 percent
decrease in the rate of crashes involving young drivers. Since that time,
California has enacted a stronger, more effective GDL system. (NHTSA, 1998)
- Oregon's GDL system was particularly effective with male teen drivers. Those
who completed the GDL system experienced 16 percent fewer crashes during
their first year of driving compared to those who had not received their license
under the GDL system. (NHTSA, 1998)
- In Ontario, Canada, where GDL took effect in 1994, preliminary results show the
crash rate for drivers age 16-19 declined 27 percent in 1995 compared to 1993.
(Interim report, Toronto, Ontario: Ministry of Transportation, 1998)
- Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the IIHS have found that
passenger restrictions for young drivers could save hundreds of lives each year.
If 100 percent of teen drivers drove by themselves, rather than riding with other
young drivers, 275 lives could be saved each year. (IIHS, 1999)
- A recent survey by the IIHS found that after young drivers completed a GDL
system, their parents were more supportive than before of the restrictions. Many
of the parents favored more difficult licensing laws than the new GDL systems.
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