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Status Report, Vol. 42, No. 7 | June 15, 2007 Subscribe

Many teens still get permits as soon as possible

Most teens still get learner's permits and driver's licenses soon after they become eligible, and once teens are licensed parents say they plan to supervise their driving. These are the findings of Institute surveys of parents of newly licensed teens in Minnesota, North Carolina, and Rhode Island.

The most common reason parents cited for the timing of teenagers' permits was that the teens wanted them as soon as possible. Up to half of parents in each state favored a licensing age of 17 or older, but a majority of teens obtained licenses well before 17. Virtually all parents said they plan to supervise their children's driving, usually by riding along with them or requiring permission before trips. One-third or more of parents in each state said they would limit teen passengers.

Main ways parents plan to supervise teens' driving

Minnesota North Carolina Rhode Island
Ride along often 55% 76% 51%
Require permission for trips 54% 29% 51%
Limit number of passengers 49% 38% 32%
Enforce curfew 43% 11% 51%
Write contract 5%  <1% 1%

When parents aren't riding along, they want to know if their teens are speeding, using cellphones, or otherwise distracted. These are important factors in teens' crashes (see "New study looks at how and why beginning drivers get into crashes," Jan. 27, 2007). A variety of in-vehicle monitoring devices are being developed, but only 37-59 percent of parents said they'd heard of them. Parents were least interested in using video cameras and about equally interested in computer chips or cellphone GPS systems. Parents who weren't interested in these devices said they trusted their children.

Teen crashes continue to fall

New research shows continued progress in reducing fatal and nonfatal crash rates among 16 year-olds, and the gains haven't been offset by higher crash rates among older teenagers.

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