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Status Report, Vol. 34, No. 10 | SPECIAL ISSUE: GRADUATED LICENSING | December 4, 1999 Subscribe

Parents' enthusiasm for graduated plan grows with experience

Graduated licensing systems may differ somewhat from state to state, but they all have one thing in common — they delay the ability of beginning teen drivers to drive anywhere, anytime, with whomever they choose.

This puts an extra burden on parents to provide teens with supervised driving experience and transport them when unsupervised driving is restricted. But none of this seems to faze parents, who support graduated licensing even more once they gain experience with it, according to an Institute survey.

Parents of 15 year-olds in Florida and Connecticut first were interviewed in 1996. The 15 year-olds were among the first affected by the states' new licensing rules. Connecticut introduced a 6-month learner's permit, which effectively raised the licensing age from 16 to 16½ (16 years, 4 months with driver education). Florida enacted a 6-month learner's permit plus night driving restrictions. Parents supported the new requirements, even though they recognized they would be inconvenienced to some extent.

Survey of parents before and after graduated licensing laws
  Florida Connecticut
Percentage of parents who support limits on initial driving
Support minimum period of restricted driving 94 99 92 99
Favor night driving restriction 90 92 80 85
Favor passenger restriction 56 67 58 72
How difficult should it be for teens to get the first driver’s license?
More difficult than new graduated law 25 45 26 40
New law about right 61 50 58 58
Old law about right 7 3 12 1

The same parents were interviewed again in 1999, after most of their teens had licenses, and the parents were even more supportive of the restrictions. Many of them favored more difficult licensing laws than the new graduated systems.

For example, in 1996 when the teens in Connecticut were 15, just over 90 percent of parents supported a minimum period of supervised driving before licensure. In 1999, this increased to 99 percent.

There's no night driving restriction in Connecticut, but 85 percent of parents in 1999 said they'd support one. Few parents reported inconvenience — 28 percent of Florida parents in 1996 thought the new law would inconvenience them, while only 18 percent in 1999 said it did. Fewer than 20 percent in both states said the laws had made it harder for their teenagers to get jobs. Furthermore, many parents favored additional requirements such as teenage passenger restrictions. "These findings indicate parents agree with increased licensing restrictions for beginning drivers, which should encourage other states to proceed," says Institute vice president Susan Ferguson.


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