New Study Suggests Graduated License Programs May Simply Delay High Teen Accident Rates


July 18, 2012

Since states including Georgia began adopting graduated license programs to reduce teenage accident rates, most data has suggested the programs were successful at reducing auto accidents involving new teen drivers.

Unfortunately, a troubling new study published in the September 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests that graduated license programs that impose restrictions on new teenage drivers, such as restricting night driving, limiting passengers and prohibiting cell phone use, may only delay the problem of inexperienced teenage drivers causing collisions.

Georgia imposes a number of restrictions on inexperienced teenage drivers, including the following restrictions among others:

  • Prohibiting driving between midnight and 6 a.m. on a provisional license
  • Restricting transportation of passengers based on the amount of time the teenage driver has had a license
  • Complete ban on all cell phone use for new teenage drivers under 18

These measures are similar to restrictions and graduated license programs imposed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, though they may vary in details. Conventional wisdom has been that by slowly allowing new drivers to gain experience while limiting driving in the most dangerous situations, these laws will prevent teenage auto accidents. Teenage drivers combine inexperience behind the wheel and immaturity, which results in thousands of teenage car accident fatalities annually.

Previous research concluded that these laws that restrict new teenage drivers reduce teenage accident fatality rates. Last year a study was published in the Traffic Injury Prevention journal that indicated the accident rate among new teen drivers age 15-17 was reduced by 30 percent as a result of these teen accident prevention measures. The study also found that there was no change in the accident rate for teenage drivers age 18 and 19 suggesting that restrictions on new teenage drivers reduce overall teenage accident rates.

The JAMA study has reached a contrary conclusion indicating that graduated license restrictions simply defer accidents caused by inexperienced drivers until they are allowed to engage in more high-risk driving practices such as nighttime driving. The study analyzed 131,000 fatal car accidents from the entire country from the period of 1986-2007. The data revealed a 26 percent decrease in teenage accident fatalities for new 16-year-old drivers in states with the most stringent graduated license programs compared to periods before any restrictions were implemented. Ironically, review of the data also revealed that the auto accident rate in the same states among 18-year-olds during the same period rose by 12 percent compared to periods with no restrictions.

The authors of the study caution that it is premature to determine that graduated license programs are not successful in reducing teenage auto accidents in Georgia. The appropriate measure may be to more gradually phase in risks like cell phone use, driving at night and transporting passengers. There is also some evidence that teenage drivers are simply waiting longer to seek a driver’s license to avoid the restrictions so that they are still inexperienced when they finally obtain a license at age 18. The bottom line is that despite efforts to curb teenage auto accidents in Georgia and elsewhere, the problem persists and more research is needed.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Georgia auto accident with a teen driver, the experienced Georgia auto accident lawyers at Montlick and Associates may be able to represent you in seeking the compensation that you deserve. Our Georgia auto accident lawyers are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and 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 www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Auto Accidents

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