Teen and new driver inexperience, coupled with immaturity, often results in risk-taking behaviors such as speeding, alcohol use and not wearing a seat belt—all of which contribute to an increased death rate. In fact, teen drivers have crash rates three times those of drivers age 20 and older per mile driven. And the problem continues to grow.1 In 2016, the number of young drivers 16 to 20 years old involved in fatal crashes increased by 3.6 percent.2
Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL)
To keep teen drivers safer on the roads, all states have enacted Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws that phase in driving privileges. Experts agree that a well-designed GDL program includes:
- Learner's stage beginning no earlier than age 16 and:
- Lasting at least 6 months
- With at least 30-50 hours of parent-certified supervised practice
- Intermediate stage that lasts until at least age 18 and includes:
- Nighttime driving restriction starting at 9:00 or 10:00 p.m.
- No (or no more than one) teen passengers
- A ban on all cell phone use and electronic communication devices
Research has shown significant reductions in deaths were associated with GDL laws that included age requirements, a waiting period of at least three months before the intermediate stage, a restriction on nighttime driving, 30 or more hours of supervised driving and a restriction on carrying passengers or the number and age of passengers carried.3
In addition to laws, parents also play a key role in helping teens become good drivers. Parents should not rely solely on driver education classes to teach good driving habits and should restrict night driving, restrict the numbers of passengers riding with their teen, supervise practice driving, alway require use of seat belts and choose vehicles for safety, not image. Parents can also set a good example by practicing safe driving themselves.
To supplement driver education, GHSA and the Ford Motor Company Fund developed Ford Driving Skills for Life (Ford DSFL), an innovative program that teaches newly licensed teens the necessary skills for safe driving beyond what they learn in standard driver education programs.
GHSA and Ford DSFL have also collaborated on several publications examining teen driver safety. The most recent of these reports, "Mission Not Accomplished: Teen Safe Driving, the Next Chapter," is available here.
1 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "Teenagers." December 2017. http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/teenagers/fatalityfacts/teenagers.
2 National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2017, October). 2016 Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview (Traffic Safety Facts Crash•Stats. Report No. DOT HS 812 456). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812456
3 McCartt, A.T.; Teoh, E.R.; Fields, M.; Braitman, K.A.; and Hellinga, L.A. 2010. Graduated licensing laws and fatal crashes of teenage drivers: a national study. Traffic Injury Prevention 11:240-48. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20544567.