Graduated Licenses Could Save At Least 500 Lives Each Year

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While fatal crash rates of teen drivers have plunged in recent years, a new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) shows that states can significantly reduce teen fatalities and collision rates by strengthening existing graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws.

How much improvement can states realize? According to the report, a dozen states could halve or more than halve their rate of fatal crashes among 15- to 17-year olds if they adopted the strongest GDL provisions. Putting it in stark figures, that equates to a potential of more than 500 lives saved and more than 9,500 collisions prevented each year.

All 50 states and Washington, D.C. have three stages of graduated driver licensing (a supervised learner’s period, an intermediate license-after passing a road test-that limits driving in high-risk situations, and full-privilege driver’s license), but the systems vary in strength.

Five key GDL components and which states have the best practices

Research conducted previously by the IIHS and HLDI show that states with the strongest laws have the biggest reductions in fatal crashes among teens 15- to 17-years old and the biggest reductions in collisions among 16- to 17-year-old drivers, compared to states with weaker laws.

Strong state laws incorporate tough standards in the five key GDL components: permit age, practice driving hours, license age, night driving restrictions and passenger restrictions.

States with the best practices in these key components include:

  • Minimum permit age of 16 – Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island
  • At least 65 supervised practice hours – Pennsylvania
  • Minimum intermediate license age of 17 – New Jersey
  • Night-driving restriction beginning at 8 p.m. (during the intermediate stage) – Idaho, and in South Carolina during daylight saving time
  • Ban on all teen passengers – Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia

“Even the best states can do better,” said Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research. She added that states don’t have to adopt the toughest laws to realize safety gains. “Strengthening one or two components pays off. To maximize all the benefits of graduated licensing, however, we would encourage lawmakers to consider the strongest provision,” McCartt said.

New online calculator measures effects of state GDL changes

The Institute and HLDI have developed an online calculator to estimate the effects of strengthening or weakening the five key GDL provisions on a state-by-state basis. The projections are based on results showing what matters most in preventing fatal crashes and collision rates among teen drivers.

The estimated percent reductions in teen driver fatal crashes and collision claims if states adopted the best GDL provisions ranges from 17 percent in Washington, D.C. and Connecticut to 56 percent in North Dakota (fatal teen crashes) and from 6 percent in Pennsylvania to 37 percent in South Dakota (collision claims).

Here are two examples of how individual states can significantly reduce teen crash fatalities and collision rates by adopting the best practice provisions.

  • Alaska – Currently, Alaska has a permit age of 14, 40 hours practice hours, license age of 16, night driving restriction beginning at 1 a.m. and no teen passengers allowed. By raising the permit age to 16, increasing practice hours to 65, raising license age to 17 and imposing night driving restrictions beginning at 8 p.m., Alaska could see a 42 percent reduction in teen fatalities and 21 percent drop in collision rates.
  • New York –Currently, New York has a permit age of 15, 50 practice hours, license age of 16 years, 6 months, night driving restriction starting at 9 p.m. and one teen passenger permitted. By implementing changes in four key provisions – increasing practice hours to 65, raising license age to 17, imposing an 8 p.m. night driving restriction and banning all teen passengers, New York could see a 24 percent reduction in fatal teen crashes and 7 percent reduction in collision claims.

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This article originally appeared on The Car Connection.

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