Graduated Driver Licensing
The number of fatal and injury crashes involving 16-year-old drivers is dramatically lower in states that have a graduated driver licensing (GDL) program with at least five of seven common components, according to a study released last week by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The study states that 16-year-old drivers are involved in 38 percent fewer fatal crashes and 40 percent fewer injury crashes if their state has such a program in place.
“The AAA Foundation study adds more weight to the perspective that teen driver safety can be affected through well-designed legislation,” said the Auto Club’s senior researcher Steven A. Bloch. “California’s was one of the first GDL programs implemented in the U.S. and it’s been improved over the years as studies like the Foundation’s and ours have shown us how to make it more effective.”
AAA Foundation officials say commissioned the study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to better understand the ability of legislation to make a difference in teen driver safety. The study also looked at the involvement of 16-year-old drivers in fatal and injury crashes, and sought to identify characteristics common to effective programs. The report “Nationwide Review of Graduated Driver Licensing,” is available online at www.aaafoundation.org.
A typical three-stage GDL program comprises a learner stage, during which all driving must be supervised; followed by an intermediate stage, during which unsupervised driving is permitted except under certain conditions (such as at night or with passengers); and finally full, unrestricted license.
During the first two years after 16-year-olds were fully licensed under the California GDL law, teen passenger deaths and injuries when 16-year-olds were behind the wheel declined 40 percent statewide and 47 percent in Los Angeles County, according to an Auto Club analysis. Also, the number of fatal and injury crashes in which 16-year-old drivers were at fault dropped 24 percent, the analysis found. These numbers convince me of the importance of the GDL.
If I was making the rules, a teenager could not get an unrestricted California driver’s license until they were 18 years old and had held a restricted license for a minimum of one year. To get a restricted license they would have to complete a much more extensive course than what is now being required.
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