’Graduated’ driver’s license programs offer mixed results

Posted on behalf of The Bell Law Firm, PLLC on Sep 30, 2011 in Car Accidents

In an effort to keep 16- and 17-year-old teen drivers from being injured or killed in a car accident , a number of states have imposed restrictions regarding when teen drivers can be on the road and who can be riding with them. West Virginia's "graduated" licensing program went into effect in 2008 and is stricter than many, especially by tying driving privileges to school attendance and academic achievement.

Nationwide, available crash data suggests that even though fatal accident s involving teen drivers in the 16- to 17-year-old age group have gone down, the number of fatal accidents in which 18- and 19-year-old drivers were at the wheel has risen.

Because of inexperience with driving in addition to general immature behavior, teens are more likely to be involved in car accidents. The intention of a graduated driver licensing program is to prevent younger drivers from entering into high-risk situations behind the wheel. These situations include driving at night and carrying passengers who could distract the driver.

The first graduated driver licensing program was put into place in 1996 in the state of Florida. Since then, all 50 states have enacted their own versions of the graduated licensing program.

Typically, restrictions include a minimum age at which a teen can obtain a learner's permit. They must also drive for a period of time while accompanied by an adult. There are a number of additional restrictions that vary by state for teen drivers until they have passed the first year of unsupervised driving -- like West Virginia's academic requirement for drivers under age 18.

Since graduated driving programs were enacted, there were 1,348 fewer fatal car crashes involving 16-year-old drivers. That number was offset some by an increase of 1,086 fatal crashes in the 18-year-old age group.

Even though there are questions about the shift in fatal accidents from younger to older drivers, few are willing to label the program as a failure.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Teen driver restrictions a mixed bag," Shari Roan, Sept. 13, 2011

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