Introduction: The Need for Graduated Driver Licensing
The Teen Driving Problem
But the same motor vehicle that goes from school to soccer to pianoin which Mom, Dad and the kids seem to livemay also be the vehicle in which our teenagers die. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for young people 15 to 20 years of age, causing roughly one-third of all fatalities in this age group. In 1996, 6,319 young people age 15-20 died in motor vehicle crashes. Even though this age group makes up only seven percent of the driving population, they are involved in 14 percent of all traffic fatalities. In 1996, teens were involved in more than two million non-fatal traffic crashes. Based on population projections, these numbers will go up unless we intervene. (See chart below.)
On the basis of miles driven, teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as are all drivers. Why do young drivers have such poor driving performance? Three factors work together to make the teen years so deadly for young drivers:
Inexperience: All young drivers start out with very little knowledge or understanding of the complexities of driving a motor vehicle. Like any other skill, learning to drive well takes a lot of time. Technical ability, good judgment and experience all are needed to properly make the many continuous decisions, small and large, that add up to safe driving. By making it so easy to get a driver licenseby literally handing teenagers the car keys without requiring an extended period of supervised practice-driving timewe are setting them up for the risk of making a fatal mistake.
Risk-taking behavior and immaturity: Adolescent impulsiveness is a natural behavior, but it results in poor driving judgment and participation in high-risk behaviors such as speeding, inattention, drinking and driving, and not using a seat belt. Peer pressure also often encourages risk taking.
Greater risk exposure: Teens often drive at night with other teens in the vehicle, factors that increase crash risk.
Teen drivers are different from other drivers, and their crash experience is different. Compared to other drivers, a higher proportion of teenagers are responsible for their fatal crashes because of their own driving errors:
Effective remedies exist for controlling these risk factors and reducing traffic crash fatalities among young drivers without seriously encroaching on their need to get around. Graduated driver licensing combines a number of measures proven to be effective in fostering safer driving behavior in young drivers. In Ontario, Canada, and in New Zealandwhere graduated driver licensing is in effectcrash deaths and injuries for teenage drivers have been reduced. Maryland, which has a nighttime driving restriction, and California have shown reductions in both fatal crashes and traffic violations among young drivers.
With graduated driver licensing, new drivers typically go through a three-stage process that involves their gradual introduction to full driving privileges. By restricting when teenagers may drive, and with whom, graduated driver licensing allows new drivers to gain much-needed on-the-road experience in controlled, lower-risk settings. It also means that a teenager will be a little older and more mature when he or she gains a full, unrestricted license. After the young driver demonstrates responsible driving behavior, restrictions are systematically lifted until the driver "graduates" to full driving privileges.
This manual explains what graduated driver licensing is and why it is so important for every jurisdiction to take steps towards its implementation.