Nova Scotia is a graduated licensing success story. Beginning drivers have been subject to this licensing system since October 1994, making it one of the first programs in North America. A new evaluation indicates that crashes involving 16-year-old drivers declined dramatically — down 24 percent — in the program's first year. The researchers also observed a 19 percent decline in the crash rate for all novice drivers regardless of age.
Comparisons with other graduated licensing programs indicate that Nova Scotia's is more effective in reducing crashes. For example, a prior Institute study in Florida found a 9 percent injury crash reduction. Previous research has shown a high rate of compliance with Nova Scotia's law and strong support from both parents and teenagers. But the true test of any graduated program is whether crashes go down.
"We needed to know if the program was saving lives and reducing injuries," says Daniel R. Mayhew, senior vice president of Canada's Traffic Injury Research Foundation and principal investigator of the Institute-sponsored study. "We now have conclusive evidence of effectiveness."
To see if the crash experience of young drivers changed after graduated licensing was introduced in Nova Scotia, data from 1993 and 1995 (before and after the program took effect) were compared. A similar comparison was made for several control groups — older drivers in Nova Scotia and drivers in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Maine.
Among 16-year-old drivers in Nova Scotia, the overall crash reduction was 24 percent. The injury crash reduction was 34 percent. No significant declines in crashes occurred in the comparison jurisdictions. In fact, crashes among 16-year-old drivers in Maine increased from 1993 to 1995.
In addition to before-and-after comparisons, the researchers conducted a time series analysis, comparing the crash involvement of 16-year-old drivers for 3 years after graduated licensing with the crashes that would have been expected if the program hadn't been enacted. There were 980 drivers age 16 involved in crashes compared with a predicted number of 1,547, representing an overall crash reduction of about 37 percent over 3 years.
Graduated licensing in Nova Scotia applies to all new drivers, with 16 as the minimum entry age. The program includes a 6-month learner's phase followed by a 2-year new-license phase. Learners must be accompanied by a licensed driver all the time, and newly licensed drivers are subject to a midnight to 5 a.m. driving restriction.