The Journal of the American Medical Association has released new data suggesting that some restrictions on teenage drivers--including limiting night driving--lowers the rate of fatal car crashes, but other restrictions, such as requiring teens to "graduate" from an interim license to a full one, can actually increase the fatal crash rate.
Between 1986 and 2007, the rate of fatal accidents involving 16-year-old drivers was 26% lower in states that prohibited teens from driving at night and carrying certain passengers, compared to states with neither restriction.
Among 18-year-olds, however, strong graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs were associated with a 12% increase in the fatal crash rate, which effectively cancelled out the benefits among younger drivers. When teen drivers of all ages were pooled together, the link between these programs and the rate of fatal crashes was statistically negligible.
[The study's lead author, Scott V.] Masten and his colleagues can't explain the increase in traffic deaths among 18-year-olds, but they suggest that it may be a form of "payback" for the restrictions on younger drivers. By limiting teen driving, they explain, graduated-license laws may deprive younger teens of valuable driving experience, and in some cases may lead teens to delay getting a license altogether.
"They're saying, 'Forget it. I'll wait till I'm 18,'" Masten says. "We have, at least in California, more novice 18- and 19-year-olds with no driving experience."
All 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, have some form of graduated drivers' licensing program.
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