Graduated licenses may have helped car accident numbers

Dangling a carrot before Illinois and other states can be a powerful incentive when that carrot represents millions of dollars that states could receive if they enact various safe-driving laws. Last month, President Obama signed a transportation bill that could divide up to $46 million among states that create or beef up programs to counteract distracted driving.

The bill also offers funds to states that reform their standards for graduated licenses, which have been credited with decreasing the number of car accidents among teen drivers. Data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that teens are particularly dangerous drivers, with a crash rate four times greater than that of more experienced motorists. A lack of time behind the wheel can mean that teens are ill-equipped to handle unusual, dangerous or stressful driving situations.

Over the past decade and a half, states have adopted graduated licensing programs. Although they vary in strictness, they are designed to give teenagers vital driving experience while prohibiting conduct that could lead a novice driver to crash. Therefore, they typically restrict the number of passengers a teen can carry and limit the times when a teen can be out on the road.

During the first decade of the century, the effort seemed to be paying off. Teenage traffic fatalities fell for eight straight years, but they did spike in the first half of last year. Analysts suggest that the increase may have been due to a rise in the absolute number of teenage drivers on the road, however.

Source: Kaiser Health News, “New Federal Transportation Law Encourages Stricter Teen Driving Regs,” Michelle Andrews, July 30, 2012.