Thursday, May 31, 2012

Graduated Driving Licenses Save Lives, Says IIHS

Driver's Licenses

Fatalities for teen drivers plunged dramatically between 1996 and 2010; for 16-year-old drivers, the rate dropped 68%, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Those drops can be partially attributed to graduated driver licensing laws that have been implemented, in one form or another, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, says the institute. However, more can be done; only 36 states and the District of Columbia are rated as having "Good" graduated driver license laws, according to IIHS.

If all states adopted the best graduated-licensing provisions for 15 to 17 year olds, IIHS officials believe that driving fatalities in the age group could be cut by more than half in most states. That means 500 lives and nearly 9,500 collisions could be prevented each year.

For those unfamiliar, a graduated driver licensing provision includes three stages: a learner's permit period; an intermediate license, which limits driving in risky situations (such as at a night or with other passengers) except under supervision; and a license with full privileges.

The current best practices, according to IIHS, are a minimum intermediate license age of 17 (found in New Jersey), a minimum permit age of 16 (Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Rhode Island), at least 65 hours of supervised practice (Pennsylvania), a night driving restriction that starts at 8 p.m. for drivers in the intermediate licensing age (Idaho and in South Carolina during daylight savings time) and a ban on all teen passengers (15 states and D.C.).

So far, no state has implemented the perfect mix of restrictions and rules, according to IIHS. States that could benefit the most from implementing these rules are Iowa and South Dakota; both states allow 14-year-olds to get a learner's permit. South Dakota even lets 14-year-olds get a full license three months after their birthday, says IIHS. The fact that these two sparsely populated states allow such young drivers to head out on the road probably has more to do with reducing the burden on parents – both states have few alternative forms of transportation.

States like Connecticut with the best laws still have work to do, according to IIHS. To demonstrate how many lives can be saved with incremental changes, the institute came up with a calculator with a slider for each component of a graduate licensing provision.

Check out the calculator here.

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