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Graduated driver licensing restrictions: awareness, compliance, and enforcement in North Carolina

Goodwin, Arthur H.; Foss, Robert D.
Journal of Safety Research
November 2004

Problem: This study examined the extent to which critical restrictions in North Carolina's graduated driver licensing (GDL) system are known, adhered to, and enforced.
Method: Teenagers and their parents were recruited as they applied for either an intermediate or full license at 1 of 23 licensing offices. Telephone interviews were conducted with 900 teenagers and their parents.
Results: Awareness of North Carolina's night and passenger restrictions was very high among both parents and teenagers. Ten percent of teenagers reported violating the night restriction without their parents' knowledge, and 15% had done so with their parents' approval. Only 4% of parents reported allowing their teenagers to drive with more than one teenage passenger, but 19% of teenagers reported that they were allowed to do this. Violations of the passenger restriction without parental knowledge were more common than violations of the night restriction (22% vs. 10%, respectively). Among teenagers who violated restrictions without their parents' knowledge, most reported doing so only once or a few times. Teenagers expressed little concern about detection, although a majority reported driving more carefully to avoid police notice. Neither parents nor teenagers knew much about police enforcement of GDL restrictions. To obtain a sense of the views of law enforcement officers, informal interviews were conducted with 20 officers from five diverse communities and the state highway patrol. These officers were highly supportive of GDL but unfamiliar with many of the specific provisions. Moreover, enforcement of GDL restrictions did not appear to be a high priority.
Impact on industry: There is a need to increase the belief among teens (and parents) that police are enforcing GDL restrictions in their community; law enforcement participation in well-publicized traffic safety enforcement efforts would likely produce this result.