Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, killing about 5,000 teens every year and injuring over a quarter million others. In fact, over a third of all deaths for 15- to 17-year olds are the result of traffic crashes. Teens have the highest crash fatality rates of age group.
Research shows that Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) and parent involvement can play key roles in reducing the toll of crashes on teens. AAA has led the state-by-state push to expand GDL systems from 8 in 1997 to 45 in 2002. Now, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have some form of GDL.
Data show GDL systems work in preventing crashes, reducing injuries, and saving lives. positive effects of strong GDL systems have been extensively measured. States with comprehensive GDL systems (5 or more GDL components) have experienced a 38% decrease in fatal crash involvement for 16-year olds and a 40% reduction in injury crashes. States with fewer components saw smaller reductions.
A 2012 AAA Foundation study showed how a teen driver’s risk of getting into a fatal crash increases when carrying peer passengers. Compared with driving alone, a 16- or 17-year-old driver’s fatal crash rate increases 44 percent when carrying one passenger younger than 21 (and with no older passengers); doubles with two passengers younger than 21; and quadruples with three or more young passengers.
The message from the research is clear: Greater injury and fatality reductions are achieved by adding GDL components. Improving a state’s GDL improves safety. focus has now shifted to improving deficient licensing systems. Nearly every state GDL system needs strengthening by adding or improving one or more components. Specifically, AAA’s GDL guidelines call for teens to accrue at least 50 hours of driving practice (including 10 hours at night) and hold a learner’s permit for at least six months before being allowed to drive by themselves. They should then be limited to no more than one passenger under 20 during the first 6 months of driving, and no driving between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.