License restrictions reduce fatalities for younger teen drivers

Laws adopted by states which restrict the driving privileges of teenage motorists appear to reduce fatal accidents among 16-year-old drivers. For some reason, these laws do not have the same impact on fatal car crashes in which 18-year-old drivers are behind the wheel. Such laws do not necessarily reduce catastrophic injuries for the older age group.

Preventing young drivers from obtaining a license until they are 18 appears to have little impact on fatal accidents involving teens. Licensing restrictions which limit teen nighttime driving, banning teen cellphone usage while driving and restricting the total number of passengers in teen driven vehicles, however, does appear to reduce the number of fatal crashes involving 16-year-old motorists by 26 percent.

This data appears in a study published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, analyzing fatal accidents involving teen motorists age 16 to 19. According to CBS News, the study found that the programs had little effect on the incidence of fatal car accidents among 17 and 19-year-old motorists and actually resulted in a slight increase in the number of fatal accidents involving 18-year-old motorists.

The study covered the time period of 1986 to 2007. During that entire time, there were approximately 132,000 car accidents involving fatalities in which teen motorists were behind the wheel. Almost 20 percent of those accidents had 16-year-old motorists driving, as compared to 30 percent for 18-year-old drivers.

Graduated drivers’ licensing programs began in 1996 and the study’s authors attribute a reduction of 1,348 in fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers to these restrictions. During the same period, however, fatal accidents among 18-year-old drivers increased by 1,086, which is not explained.

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