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Teens are problematically waiting to earn their drivers' licenses

Novice drivers are uniquely vulnerable behind the wheel. In a motorist’s first year of driving, he or she is more likely to be involved in devastating car accidents than at any other point in time. As a result, many states have initiated graduated drivers licensing (GDL) programs. These programs require teen drivers in particular to adhere to various rules that decrease in their restrictive nature over time. By requiring teen drivers to adhere to strict rules during their first six months, year and two years of driving, they gain valuable experience while remaining as safe as possible.

Unfortunately, a study recently released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicates that teens are increasingly waiting until they are older to earn their drivers’ licenses. Teens may be actively avoiding GDL restrictions or they may be waiting for other reasons. However, the study reveals that only 44 percent of teens become licensed to drive within the first year that they are allowed to under their home state laws.

As a result of this trend, fewer and fewer teens are being exposed to the safety checks provided by GDL programs. They are failing to gain experience while being restrained from some of the most hazardous driving conditions. GDL programs often require teens to avoid driving late at night, with too many passengers in the car and while distracted. Studies have shown that learning to drive with these restrictions in place helps novice drivers remain far safer behind the wheel than they ordinarily would be. By delaying licensure, teens are actually putting themselves at unnecessary risk.

Source: AAA Newsroom, “Teens Delaying Licensure—A Cause for Concern?” Nancy White, Aug. 1, 2013

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