NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Graduated Licensing Improves Safety

October 3, 2001

Teenage drivers are involved in significantly fewer auto crashes in states that use a step-by-step method for driver training and licensing, according to two new studies. Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have graduated licensing programs.

  • The three-stage programs first allow 16-year-olds to drive only with an adult in the vehicle, then alone only outside peak crash times -- finally winning the right to drive whenever they please if they have not received any traffic violations.
  • Accidents involving teen-age drivers declined by one-quarter in North Carolina and Michigan -- two states with stringent drivers' licensing systems -- after the programs were implement in the mid-1990s.
  • University of North Carolina researcher Robert Foss, writing the Journal of the American Medical Association, recommends teens spend six months with an adult in the car and six months driving without any passengers and only during the day.
  • University of Michigan researcher Jean Shope said the graduated system was effective -- though it did not alter teen drivers' rate of alcohol-related crashes.

Motor vehicle crashes are the most common cause of death among teens in the U.S., according to the North Carolina study.

Source: Reuters, "Gradual Licensing Reduces Teen Crashes, Study Finds," Washington Times, October 3, 2001; based on Robert D. Foss, John R. Feaganes and Eric A. Rodgman, "Initial Effects of Graduated Driver Licensing on 16-Year-Old Driver Crashes in North Carolina," and Jean T. Shope, Lisa J. Molnar, Michael R. Elliott and Patricia F. Waller, "Graduated Driver Licensing in Michigan Early Impact on Motor Vehicle Crashes Among 16-Year-Old Drivers," Journal of the American Medical Association, October 3, 2001.


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