The researchers used data from 1994-2004 collected by NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the U.S. Census Bureau to examine various graduated driver licensing programs and fatal crash statistics in 36 U.S. states with graduated driver licensing programs and 7 without.
Comparing states with five program components to states without graduated driver licensing programs, the researchers reported an 18 percent difference in fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers. Programs with six or seven components were associated with a 21 percent reduction. The researchers also found a 16-21 percent reduction in fatal crashes when programs included an age requirement in addition to a wait of at least three months before allowing teens to apply for their intermediate-stage license, plus nighttime driving restrictions and either 30 hours of supervised driving or passenger restrictions. The authors concluded that the most comprehensive graduated driver licensing programs result in the best reduction of fatal crashes of 16-year-old drivers.
In addition, the authors’ findings were strengthened by examining fatal crashes involving drivers aged 20-24 and 25-29. The researchers did not find a reduction in fatal crashes in these age groups. Graduated driver licensing restrictions primarily affect 16-year-olds, indicating that the changes were not associated with the overall driving environment that would also have influenced older drivers, explained co-author Li-Hui Chen, PhD.
“Annually, about 1,000 16-year-old drivers are involved in fatal crashes in the United States and traffic injury is the leading cause of death among adolescents. The effectiveness of graduated driver licensing programs in reducing fatal crashes of novice drivers is very robust across genders and geographic regions. Enhancing the enforcement of graduated driver licensing regulations could prevent more premature deaths,” said co-author Guohua Li, MD, DrPH.
Co-authors of the NHTSA report and Pediatrics study are Susan P. Baker, MPH, LiHui Chen, PhD, and Guohua Li, MD, DrPH.
“Graduated Driver Licensing Programs and Fatal Crashes of 16-year-old Drivers: A National Evaluation” will be published in the July 2006 issue of Pediatrics.
The study was supported by grants from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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