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Views of parents of teenagers about licensing policies: a national survey

Williams, Allan F.; Braitman, Keli A.; McCartt, Anne T.
Traffic Injury Prevention (TIP)
January 2011

Objective: During the past two decades, many changes in licensing policies have been made in U.S. states, and more are being discussed. The views of parents of teenagers can inform debates about what licensing provisions should be considered and how well they will be received. The objective was to obtain the views of a nationally representative sample of parents of teenagers on a wide range of licensing practices.
Methods: Parents were interviewed via the internet in early 2010. Participants were 1226 parents of 15- to 18-year-olds drawn from a nationally representative panel of U.S. households recruited using probability-based sampling. The panel included cell phone-only households, and Internet access was provided to those without it. Weighting procedures were applied to ensure that participants reflect the national population.
Results: Parents generally favored licensing policies that are as strong as or stronger than exist in any U.S. jurisdiction, including higher permit and licensing ages, long learner periods with high practice hour requirements, plus strong and long-lasting night and passenger restrictions. The majority of parents approved of tougher driving tests, including a test to graduate to full license status (75%), enhanced penalties for traffic violations (94%) and violations of graduated licensing restrictions (78%), cell phone and texting bans (96-98%), and, to a somewhat lesser extent, license status identifiers (decals) on vehicles (65%) and the application of graduated licensing rules to novice drivers 18 and older (61%). Parents in the Northeast were significantly more supportive of older learner's permit and restricted driving ages than parents in other regions, and parents in the West were more supportive of strong passenger restrictions.
Conclusions: Results suggest that many parents will support comprehensive licensing policies. Many of these policies are known to reduce teenage crash involvement. For others, research evidence of their effects is lacking and needs to be established.