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Getting a license is an important milestone for teens and parents, but being a beginning driver carries special risks. Per mile traveled, teenage drivers are more likely to be involved in a crash than all but the oldest adult drivers. During their first months of licensure, teens have a particularly high risk of crashing. One reason is inexperience. Another is immaturity.
When teenage drivers crash, the contributing factors are typically different than adult drivers' crashes. Characteristics of teens' fatal crashes include:
Inexperienced 16 year-olds have especially high crash rates per 10,000 drivers in their first months of licensure
Crashes are the leading cause of death among American teens, accounting for nearly a third of all deaths of 16-19 year-olds. Graduated licensing helps to reduce this toll by slowly introducing teens to more complex driving tasks as they mature and gain skills. Driving privileges are phased in to restrict beginners' initial experience behind the wheel to lower risk situations. The restrictions gradually are lifted, so teens are more experienced and mature when they get their full, unrestricted licenses.
Graduated licensing laws have reduced teenagers' crash rates in the United States, Canada and New Zealand. All U.S. states have such laws, but they aren't all strong.
The toughest graduated licensing provisions in the U.S. are a minimum permit age of 16, at least 70 hours of supervised practice driving during the learner's stage, a minimum intermediate license age of 17, and during the intermediate stage, a night driving restriction starting at 8 p.m. and a ban on driving with other teens in the vehicle. No state currently has all of them. An online calculator developed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows the effects for every state and the District of Columbia of strengthening or weakening the five key provisions: permit age, practice driving hours, license age, and night driving and passenger restrictions.
Being a beginning driver has special risks. During their first months of licensure, teens have a particularly high risk of crashing. Driving at night and driving with other teens in the car are especially risky. That's why graduated licensing systems restrict these activities until teen drivers have more experience on the road.
Check out our GDL calculator for an overview of teen driver laws in your state and to see how they could be improved.
With or without a strong graduated licensing law, parents can establish effective rules. In particular:
16-17-year-old drivers have higher death risk per mile traveled when passengers ride along
Percent change in death risk with passengers younger than 21 vs. no passengers
Source: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
Looking for a vehicle for your teen driver?
A current IIHS Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick award winner is ideal. If a new model isn't in your budget, consult the IIHS list of recommended used vehicles for teens, with prices starting under $20,000 and under $10,000.
©1996-2014, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
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