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New Study Provides Mixed Signals of Teen Compliance with Driving Safety Restrictions

November 04, 2013

A new report from the National Safety Council (NSC) provides new data on the driving patterns of teenagers.  While concerning in some respects, it also provides some good news about teen drivers' text messaging patterns. Because prior studies have shown that parental input, modeling of driving behavior and close supervision has a greater impact on teen driving patterns than peer pressure from classmates, we have provided these findings in the hope that they may prove guidance to parents of teens. At Montlick and Associates, our Atlanta Car Accident Injury Attorneys are committed to making the roadways of Atlanta safer and reducing the number of tragic teen driving fatalities.

The new study conducted by State Farm and reported by the NSC surveyed 500 parents and their teenage kids. The study found that parents tend to overestimate the extent to which teen drivers comply with the special restrictions imposed by Graduated Driver Licensing Programs (GDL Programs). We recently addressed rising concerns that these laws which have been credited with substantial reduction in teen car crash rates have started to become less effective because teens are postponing the process of obtaining a driver license. This new study suggest close supervision of parents may be appropriate to prevent further declines in the effectiveness of GDL Programs. In Part I of this two-part blog, we examine some potentially positive news about teen text messaging and the degree to which teen motorists disregard restrictions on nighttime driving. 

Positive News about Teen Texting and Driving

Before examining the troubling information the study revealed about teen compliance with GDL laws, there was a hint of good news from the research that should be noted. Teenager and parent views on text messaging while driving were far more consistent than those concerning GDL restrictions. The researchers indicate almost three-quarters of teens recognize that texting and driving is extremely dangerous. Approximately 78 percent of teen participants surveyed indicated that they generally abstain from engaging in this form of high risk behavior.

Unfortunately, the results were far less positive when it comes to GDL imposed driving restrictions. According to the study, many parents are unaware that their teens tend to disregard the most important features of GDL restrictions – (1) nighttime driving restrictions; and (2) restriction on transporting teen passengers.

Nighttime Driving Restrictions

Because of decreased visibility and an increased number of drunk drivers on the roadways, nighttime driving is riskier for all motorists. However, teenagers have less experience with these risks so they may not compensate by slowing down or avoiding distractions. Researchers found that less than half of all teen drivers indicated that they complied with restrictions not to drive at night despite the fact that 69 percent of parents thought their kids obeyed such restrictions. Because parents generally will have the ability to limit access to a vehicle by their teen, parents may be in a position to discourage this form of dangerous teen driving practice.

Restrictions on Teen Passengers

Studies have shown that the risk of a teen driver being involved in a fatal collisions increases in direct relation to increases in the number of teen passengers in the vehicle.  A recent study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) found that teen drivers transporting peers in their vehicle are eight times as likely to be involved in a fatal car crash when they transport two or more passengers.  Although fatal car crashes involving novice teen drivers declined by sixty percent over a recent ten year period, the percentage of fatalities that occurred when such drivers were transporting peers in the vehicle increased each year during the same period. 

The authors of the TTI study point out that inexperienced teen drivers have two disadvantages compared to older experienced drivers who are transporting passengers.  Newly licensed teen drivers have minimal driving experience so they have a more difficult time dealing with potential hazards while dealing with the distractions posed by passengers.  Teens also have incomplete development of the pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for evaluating the potential consequences associated with high risk behavior.  The authors of the study indicate that these two disadvantages make teens more likely to be distracted by passengers and less capable of accurately assessing the risk of such distractions.

This research is particularly concerning in light of the new study reported by the NSC that revealed that 42 percent of the teen drivers in the study admitted that they routinely disregard GDL restrictions on transporting peers when driving.  When teens were asked if peer pressure was the reason for non-compliance, they indicated that the overwhelming basis for ignoring the requirement was the insignificant probability of being caught by law enforcement so that they would be subject to consequences.  According to the researchers, seventy percent of parents surveyed indicated that they assumed their kids regularly complied with this driving restriction.  Collectively, this research suggests that parents may wish to monitor their kids more closely and impose consequences for driving with other teens in their vehicle.

Put Our Law Firm's Over 37 Years Experience to Work For You

If you or your teenager is injured in a teen driving accident in Atlanta or elsewhere in Georgia our Atlanta auto accident attorneys at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to those throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.  No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333).  You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Auto Accidents

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