Vital Benefits of a Graduated Driver’s License

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Over the past two decades, progressive driver licensing laws have saved thousands of lives by placing restrictions and temporary requirements on young drivers in every state. Research shows that GDL laws have not only reduced accidents, but have also helped maintain auto insurance rates.

“To put it bluntly, the implementation of GDL programs has saved about 200 high school students from dying in motor vehicle crashes each year in the United States,” said Guohua Li, director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at the United States. ‘Columbia University.

Li co-authored a 2007 study that found GDL laws were associated with an 11% drop in fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers and a 19% drop in injury crashes. The study, funded by the AAA Road Safety Foundation, looked at 43 states, including 36 that had GDL programs.

The drop is significant, as car crashes are the leading cause of death among Americans aged 13 to 19, reports the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

GDL laws generally include:

  • A learning stage when driving must be supervised and adolescents must complete a certain number of hours of supervised driving.
  • An intermediate step which restricts driving at night and restricts or prohibits teenage passengers.
  • Granting full driving privileges, after which the pilot has no restrictions.
  • Minimum age for each step.

The Governors Highway Association has a list of GDL state laws.

While all states now have some form of GDL, experts say more restrictive rules could lower accident rates even further. Here is an overview of GDL laws and how they could be improved.

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What has proven itself

Researchers generally agree on which elements of GDL laws work best, although there are disputes over details.

Higher minimum age

According to a 2013 analysis by researchers at the California Department of Motor Vehicles and the University of North Carolina, requiring teens to be 16 years old to receive a learner’s license and 16½ or 17 years old to receive an intermediate license saves. the most lives. The IIHS supports a full minimum licensing age of 17, while 2011 research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found raising it to 18 to be the most effective.

Most states do not follow the recommendations and allow teens to get learner’s permits when they are still 15 – or even 14 – and intermediate permits as soon as they turn 16. Most states, however, require drivers to be at least 17 years old before obtaining a full license.

A learning stage of at least nine months

A learning stage of nine to 12 months works best, according to the 2013 study.

“This, more than anything else, has been responsible for the effectiveness of GDL,” says Robert Foss, director of the Center for the Study of Young Drivers at the University of North Carolina and one of the authors of the study.

Only 12 states require drivers to hold a learner’s license for at least nine months. Wyoming only requires 10 days and New Hampshire has no time requirement.

Supervised driving hours

The vast majority of states require supervised driving while young drivers hold learner’s licenses – typically 30 to 50 hours, with night driving.

It is undisputed that the practice of supervised driving is key for new drivers. As Foss puts it, “The biggest problem with young drivers is not that they’re teenagers, but that they don’t have a lot of experience.

The IIHS calls for requiring at least 65 hours of supervised driving practice during this stage, while NIH-funded research in 2011 found that 50 to 100 hours of such practice was the most effective.

But Foss says his research hasn’t shown such warrants reduce deaths, in part because parents are often unaware of the requirements. In some states, parents or other supervisors must complete a driving log to ensure requirements are met.

Another problem: A minimum hour requirement can actually lead to a reduction in supervised driving time, Foss explains. “When you specify a certain number of hours, most parents assume that reaching that threshold means that a person has become a good driver, or at least a competent driver.” Thus, parents often stop supervising their teens once they have reached the required 30 or 50 hours.

Restrict the number of teenage passengers during the middle phase

The 2011 NIH study found that banning young drivers from carrying other teenage passengers reduced fatalities more than any other factor. However, Foss and his colleagues found that setting a limit on a teenage passenger was just as effective as banning them altogether.

Most states limit teenage passengers to one during the middle stage, or during the first six months of this stage in some states with longer intermediary periods.

Restricting teenage driving at night

While few teens drive between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., that’s when 30% of teenage driving deaths occur, according to a 2009 report focusing on the six Great Lakes states. by the Injury Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin. That’s why every state except Vermont prohibits mid-stage drivers from driving alone during certain hours of the night. Foss believes restrictions should begin no later than 10 p.m. IIHS backs 8 p.m.

Night driving restrictions begin at midnight or later in 23 states.

All state GDL laws fail

No state has a GDL program that meets even the most forgiving view of best practice at all levels, although some come close:

  • North Carolina has a 12 month learning phase, requires 60 hours of supervised driving (including 10 at night) during the learning phase and 12 hours (six at night) during the intermediate phase, restricts night driving from 9 p.m. and limit intermediate drivers to one passenger under the age of 21. The shortfall: adolescents can obtain a learner’s permit at 15 and a full permit at 16 ½.
  • New York makes teens wait until 16 to get a learner’s license, requires 50 hours of supervised driving (including 15 at night), bars driving after 9 p.m. or having more than one passenger under 21 for the intermediate phase and does not allow a full license up to 18 years (17 years with driving license). The shortfall: drivers must hold a learner’s license for only six months.

Other restrictions

Many states have added other requirements for new pilots, such as:

  • Prohibition of cell phone use, even with a hands-free device.
  • Seat belt requirements. Adolescents have the lowest rate of seat belt use of any age group. At least 45% of high school students say they don’t always wear them, according to the CDC.
  • Zero tolerance for alcohol or drugs. According to a 2012 NIH-funded study, underage drivers with even a small amount of alcohol in their system are nearly 1.5 times more likely to have a fatal single-car crash than sober teenagers.
  • More severe penalties for teenagers who commit offenses such as speeding, reckless driving and street racing.

Research hasn’t necessarily proven that these regulations reduce teen death rates, but they are clearly designed to tackle unsafe behavior.

The impact on auto insurance prices

Insurance for teenage drivers is expensive, but GDL laws can help keep rates down by reducing crashes, which are a factor affecting premiums.

States with strong GDL programs saw a 15% drop in insurance claims compared to states that did not have GDL laws or a single GDL element, according to a 2009 study by the Highway Loss Data Institute.

Such rate cuts would not necessarily save teens and their families money. Lower claim rates can lower premiums for all drivers.

What parents can do

GDL laws work best when parents play a key role. Here are some ways they can help you:

  • Apply restrictions. Parents are in a better position than the police to make sure children don’t break the rules by driving late at night or with teenage passengers.
  • Train with teenage drivers. “You want them to drive as much as they can with you sitting in the car with them,” says Foss. And don’t stick to the same routes and times. Take your teen out on the city streets and highways, in the rain and snow, and after dark.
  • Teach by example. You will undermine the messages about safe driving if you don’t practice what you preach.

The time you devote now to helping your teenage driver will pay off for many years to come.

Aubrey Cohen is a writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. E-mail: [email protected]. Twitter: @aubreycohen.

Image via iStock.

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