Graduated Licensing is the Solution to the Teen Crash Problem

November 04, 1997

The crash rate for 16-year-olds is eight times that of drivers ages 20 and older. Seventeen year olds fare not much better. The solution is the adoption of graduated licensing systems in which novice drivers are granted driving privileges restricted to low risk situations that expand as their age and experience grows.

In the November/December 1997 issue of Public Health Reports, Allan Williams, Senior Vice President for Research with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, presents the data for crash rates, experience in other countries and some states with graduated licensing, and argues that the time is right for adoption of graduated licensing by all the states.

Compared with the crashes of older drivers, those of 16- to 19-year-olds are more likely to: be single vehicle events, involve one or more driving errors, include speeding as a factor, and involve three or more vehicle occupants who are most often other teenagers. Night-time driving is an especially high risk activity for 16- to 19-year-olds, with only about 20% of their mileage accumulated between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. but almost half of their fatal crashes occurring during these hours.

While people think that driver education improves safety records, worldwide research indicates that graduates of driver education do not have fewer subsequent crashes than drivers who learned without formal driver education.

An ideal graduated system will start the learning process at age 16 and not allow graduation until age 18, will set a minimum learner's period of 6 to 12 months and an intermediate license stage of one year or more with restrictions on late-night driving and transporting teenage passengers, the two main risk factors for young beginners. Variations of graduated licensing are in place in New Zealand, Nova Scotia, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia, and New Hampshire.

CONTACT: Allan Williams, PhD, Senior Vice President for Research with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety; tel. 703-247-1500; e-mail <iihs@hwysafety.org>.

Public Health Reports

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