And graduated driver licensing programs, even strong ones, may have their limitations.
A study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association examined the incidence of fatal crashes between 1986 and 2007 involving drivers between ages 16 and 19. It estimated that 1,348 fewer fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers occurred during that time because of graduated licensing programs than would have occurred without them. But the study also estimated that there were 1,086 more fatal crashes involving 18-year-old drivers over the same period, largely offsetting the improvements for younger drivers.
What’s going on? One theory is that teenagers may be waiting until they turn 18 to get their license, bypassing the restrictions of the graduated licensing system altogether. They then have full license privileges, but they’re as inexperienced as a 16-year-old.
“We know that new drivers have more crashes than more experienced ones,” says John Ulczycki, group vice president at the National Safety Council, an advocacy group.
Still, safety experts are encouraged that the new highway law provides $46 million for incentive grants for states to implement or strengthen distracted-driving programs for all drivers over the next two years. It also includes $27 million for states that adopt certain standards, including prohibiting cellphone use or communicating by device in non-emergency situations, for their graduated licensing programs.
This marks the first time the federal government has spelled out such standards. States can use the grant money for education, training and enforcement, among other things.
“We’re offering a carrot” to states to strengthen their laws, says Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an advocacy group. “This was a big step forward,” she says.
This column is produced through a collaboration between The Post and Kaiser Health News. KHN, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health-care-policy organization that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. E-mail: email@example.com.