Deadly Teen Crashes Cut by Delaying Driving Privilege, Studies Say

New evidence shows that laws adopted across the country that phase in driving privileges for teenagers have substantially cut fatal car crashes.

Three related studies funded by the National Institutes of Health showed that the safety initiatives, known as graduated licensing programs, have reduced the rate of fatal crashes among teens ages 16 and 17 by 8 percent to 14 percent.

The medical research agency, in a news release, noted that graduated licensing laws were adopted by all 50 states and the District of Columbia over the last 15 years.

It said that the new research showed that the greatest reductions in young driver crashes came in states that adopted graduated driver licensing laws along with other restrictions. One example: laws requiring forfeiture of a driver’s license as a penalty for youths below the age of 21 caught possessing or using alcohol on the road.

Graduated licensing programs typically bar newly licensed drivers for a specified period of time from doing such things as driving late at night or driving with teenage passengers in the car. The drivers in many cases don’t receive full licenses until age 18.

The new studies, conducted by researchers at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Calverton, Md., were based on statistics drawn from a  national database on fatal crashes maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The studies build on earlier research that also credited graduated licensing with reducing deadly accidents involving teen drivers.

The new research was published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention.

A report released in January found that, in 2008, 4,358 people were killed in crashes in which a teen driver was behind the wheel.

STUART SILVERSTEIN

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