When teenagers first get behind the wheel, the parents of these newbie drivers are probably worried sick. Parents have a good reason to fret about their youngsters, since teens are in the demographic group most likely to be involved in automobile accidents. Young people often make unsafe choices behind the wheel because they do not yet have the necessary driving experience to avoid collisions or because they are influenced by peer pressure and immaturity.
However, there are ways to reduce the number of teenagers involved in motor vehicle accidents. Graduated licensing programs, for example, have made a substantial impact in making teenagers safer on the roads.
Graduated license programs make teenage drivers go through several stages before they get their full license. Teens get a permit to drive first and must drive only with supervision. They then move on to a restricted intermediate license and finally are given a full license.
Graduated licensing programs were first established in 1996, when the state of Florida passed a rule imposing graduated licensing on young drivers. Today, every state in the country has a graduated licensing program in place in order to slowly introduce teenagers to the responsibilities associated with operating a motor vehicle.
The introduction of graduated licensing programs nationwide has had a substantial positive impact on reducing the death rate for young drivers. In the past decade, there has been a 55 percent reduction in the number of deadly collisions with teen drivers behind the wheel. In 2004, a total of 5,724 fatal motor vehicle accidents involved drivers aged 16 to aged 19. In 2013, there were only 2,568 fatal motor vehicle accidents involving a teenage driver.
While other factors have also helped play a role in bringing down the rate of fatal teen crashes, graduated licensing programs are responsible for a 10 to 30 percent decline in fatal crashes with teen drivers. Some safety advocates believe that if every state imposed the strictest regulations for its graduated licensing program, the rate of collisions with teen drivers would decline even more substantially.
A 2009 study also showed that overall accident rates with teen drivers were down, even in non-fatal crashes. In states that had the most restrictive graduated licensing programs, there was a 20 percent overall decline in motor vehicle insurance claims for accidents with teen drivers. In states with moderately-restrictive programs, there was a 15 percent decline in car insurance claims. In states with minimally-restrictive graduated driving license rules, there has been a 10 percent decline in insurance claims made by teen drivers after crashes.
Graduated licensing programs have undoubtedly helped make teenagers safer on the roads. Although teen drivers remain high risk, fewer fatalities and injuries are happening thanks to more restrictions on their right to drive.