Some safety officials call on states to tighten their GDL laws

If state officials are serious about reducing the number of traffic accidents that occur among teenagers, they will toughen their graduated drivers license programs, safety officials recently advised.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety*, should all of the states adopt the five main components of GDL laws, more than 500 traffic fatalities and as many as 9,500 collisions could be prevented annually. These components include increasing the minimum permit age to 16 years old, requiring more driving practice hours, heightening the licensing age to 17 and imposing more rigorous nighttime driving limitations and teen passenger restrictions.

Previous research performed by the IIHS as well as the Highway Loss Data Institute has indicated the states with the most rigorous GDL laws in place have seen some of the biggest drops in fatal crashes involving motorists that are 15 to 17-years-old. It is in these years that teens are at their biggest risk for being involved in an accident. States with some of the toughest regulations on the books include New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the IIHS asserts.

‘Best states can do better’

As strong as the practices in these states are, however, more can be done, according to Anne McCartt, senior vice president of research at IIHS.

“Even the best states can do better,” said McCartt. “There’s room for improvement across the board, and states could see immediate reductions in fatal crashes and collision claims as soon as the beefed-up provisions are in force.”

For example, IIHS says that Connecticut has particularly rigorous GDL laws in place, as among other things, the state requires teen drivers to wait until they turn 16 to obtain a permit and also prevents them from driving with other teenage passengers while in the intermediate stage of licensure. However, if state officials increased the amount of time in which teenagers are required to practice, as well as the age in which they can obtain their license, it could result in a 17 percent drop in fatal crashes and 13 percent fewer auto insurance claims resulting from collisions.

Other states that implement across-the-board strengthening of GDL laws, such as Iowa and South Dakota, could see driving fatalities drop 55 and 63 percent, respectively, IIHS notes.

McCartt added that even though voting to raise the licensing age might not be the most politically popular move, officials would be serving their constituency well by doing so.

“The younger teens are when they get their licenses, the higher their crash rate,” said McCartt. “We encourage states to sharpen the core elements of their teen driver laws, particularly restrictions on night driving and young passengers.”

According to the National Safety Council**, as the number of teen passengers travelling in a car driven by a 16- or 17-year-old increases, so does the likelihood of being involved in a fatal accident.

*according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety on May 31, 2012
**according to National Safety Council on June 5, 2012

via Peter Montanez

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