STUDY OF GRADUATED LICENSING PROGRAMS RAISES RED FLAGS, CONT.
September 1, 2011
We’re continuing our discussion of graduated licensing and the surprising results of a recent study. In Oregon, teens can get a driver’s license at age 16, but it is a restricted license. The restrictions are meant to cut down on distractions — and accidents – as the teen matures and gets more experience behind the wheel.
A recent study, reviewed in our Sept. 22 post, shows that the graduated licensing approach is saving lives of 16- and 17-year-olds. It also shows that the decline in that age group is almost matched by the increase in fatalities among 18- and 19-year-olds. States with stricter programs actually logged higher fatalities of 18- and 19-year-olds than states with less restrictive programs.
These are just numbers, though — they don’t offer any reasons. When compared with other data, though, some possible explanations present themselves.
For example, in California, where the researchers were based, the graduated licensing program is particularly strong. According to the department of motor vehicles, 23 percent of 16-year-olds got their driver’s licenses. In 2007, the number had fallen to just 14 percent.
The logical conclusion: Kids are waiting longer before getting their licenses. The inexperience factor is still present.
A different study, though, had different results. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that strong programs translated into lower fatalities among 15- to 17-year-olds than weak programs, but the rate for 18- and 19-year-old drivers was the same for both programs.
Either way, more research is likely. Teens and young adults may demand it, if legislators listen to some of the researchers.
In one state, the restrictions apply to anyone under age 21 applying for a license. Why not introduce that in more states, or expand the restricted driving licenses to the older teens?
The challenge is that the older teens are legal adults. Imposing such restrictions on them could be more than an inconvenience — it could disqualify them from certain jobs.
More research, perhaps, before more rules, said one researcher.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Teen Driver Restrictions A Mixed Bag,” Shari Roan, Sept. 13, 2011