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Status Report, Vol. 35, No. 3 | March 11, 2000 Subscribe

Delayed licensure in Connecticut leads to crash reductions

The best graduated licensing systems include a period of supervised driving followed by restrictions including limits on late-night driving and driving any time of day with passengers. Few states have enacted all of these provisions (see "Bandwagon moving fast: States accelerate graduated licensing laws," Dec. 4, 1999), but a partial graduated system is better than none at all. In Connecticut this proves true.

Before 1997, teenagers in Connecticut could qualify for full driving privileges soon after their 16th birthdays. The state didn't require a learner's permit of any duration before teens could get their unrestricted driver's licenses — only driver education or home training was needed. Beginning in 1997, new drivers were required to get learner's permits and hold them for six months (or four months with driver education). The practical effect has been to delay licensure, which provides more time for supervised practice driving and reduces the time 16 year-olds are allowed to drive unsupervised.

The result of this change in policy was an immediate reduction in crashes involving deaths and injuries among Connecticut's youngest drivers. This is the finding of a new Institute study conducted by Preusser Research Group.

Researchers compared rates of crashes involving deaths and injuries during 1997, the first full year under the new licensing requirements, with data from the previous year. The main finding was a 22 percent crash reduction among 16-year-old drivers — a change that research found unrelated to geographic region of the state, income level, or availability of driver education in the school system.

"The main difference was the introduction of a required learner's period for a set time duration that effectively delays access to a full license," Institute research vice president Susan Ferguson explains.

During the same time (1996 to 1997), crash rates didn't change significantly among 17-18 year-olds. Nor did rates change significantly among 16-18-year-old drivers in nearby New York counties, where licensing provisions stayed the same from 1996 to 1997. The study covers Connecticut's new requirements only during the first year when some 16 year-olds started the licensing process (others began in 1996). Researchers say they expect greater effects in subsequent years when all 16 year-olds have to get and hold learner's permits.

Percent changes in crash rates, 1996 (before graduated licensing) to 1997 (after)

16 year-olds Connecticut -22%
New York -8%
17 year-olds Connecticut +6%
New York +2%
18 year-olds Connecticut +9%
New York +1%
All Connecticut counties are included in the study. Six New York counties are included: Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Ulster, and Westchester.

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