NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Phased-in Teen Driving Privileges Could Save 2,000 Lives per Year

December 8, 2011

The United States could save 2,000 lives a year if all 50 states instituted comprehensive programs of phased-in driving privileges for teens, according to a report from the National Safety Council and Allstate Foundation, reports USA Today.

The report comes as Congress prepares to consider a multiyear highway and transit-spending bill.  Advocates of graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws are pushing to include funding for about $25 million a year in incentives for states to strengthen GDL programs.

  • Motor-vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention.
  • Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash, the CDC says.

Every state has some form of GDL, which rewards novice drivers with additional driving privileges as they gain experience and maturity.  Experts say the most effective programs contain seven key components; two states, New York and Delaware, have programs with all seven.  The seven components:

  • Minimum age 16 for a learner's permit;
  • Six months before unsupervised driving;
  • Minimum 30 hours supervised driving during learner's stage;
  • Intermediate licensing at age 16 1/2 minimum;
  • Intermediate nighttime driving restriction beginning no later than 10 p.m.;
  • No more than one non-family passenger for intermediate license holders;
  • Minimum age 17 for a full license.

One component that could draw staunch opposition from lawmakers concerned about states' rights: raising the minimum age for getting a learner's permit.  Also, the 10,000-member National Youth Rights Association opposes a national GDL law.  "It's discriminatory on its face," vice president Jeffrey Nadel says.

Source: Larry Copeland, "Study: Phased-In Teen Driving Privileges Could Save 2,000," USA Today, December 6, 2011.  "License to Save," National Safety Council and Allstate Foundation, December 2011.

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