NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Is It Time For Graduated Driver Licensing?

December 15, 1999

The accident rate for 16-year-old drivers is almost three times the rate of 18- and 19-year-olds. The main reason for their higher accident rate is inexperience, say safety experts. Thus private organizations, including the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a federal agency, are supporting the concept of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL).

Some 16 states, including Florida and California, have established comprehensive GDL programs. Although specific requirements vary from state to state, under GDL programs teenage drivers proceed in stages over one to two years toward a full driver's license. The Insurance Institute recommends this program:

  • For the first year, a novice driver must be supervised at all times by a licensed driver at least 21 years old and accumulate a minimum of 50 hours.
  • If the novice passes another road test and has no moving violations, he proceeds to the second stage, where he may drive unsupervised -- except at night or with other teen passengers.
  • If the teen driver has no moving violations or at-fault accidents, at age 18 he can take another road test to receive an unrestricted license.

According to the Insurance Institute, after the first year the Florida program became fully effective, the number of fatalites and injuries in accidents involving 15- to 17-year-olds dropped 9 percent. Night-time crashes were 17 percent below what otherwise would have been expected. Elsewhere, New Zealand reported a drop of seven percent in injuries among drivers int he 15 to 19 age bracket during the first nine years it had a GDL.

Source: William Ecenbarger, "Teen Drivers: Keeping Them Alive," Reader's Digest, December 1999.


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