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Adopting stronger graduated licensing laws could sharply reduce deaths and crashes

Consumer Reports News: May 31, 2012 02:38 PM

If every state strengthened all five areas of their graduated licensing laws, more than 500 teen lives could be saved and over 9,500 collisions prevented, according to a new analysis by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The five areas of graduated driver license (GDL) programs are permit age, practice driving hours, license age, night driving, and passenger restrictions. Some states excel in one or more areas, but no state has adopted all the best practices in each category. While IIHS research has found that states that have stronger laws have less fatal crashes and collisions, there is room for improvement.

Here is a list of the best GDL provisions by state:

Permit age of 16
District of Columbia
New Jersey
New York
Rhode Island

65 practice hours

Licensing at age 17

New Jersey

8 p.m. driving restriction

Idaho (sunset to sunrise)
South Carolina (6 p.m.)

No teen passengers
District of Columbia
West Virginia

In 2000, IIHS began to recognize the states with the best programs by using a rating system from good to poor. The Institute has now replaced the old ratings system and launched an interactive online calculator that will estimate the reduction in collision claims and fatal crashes that a state can achieve if they strengthen certain aspects of their laws.

The IIHS report estimates that some states could even reduce their fatal crashes by half among 15-17 year olds. For example, Iowa and South Dakota are two states that could potentially see significant reductions in teen driving deaths if they take some action. Both states allow 14 year olds to obtain a learner's permit and don't have any restrictions on teen passengers. If Iowa adopted stronger laws across each provision, they could see a 55-percent reduction in fatal crashes. In South Dakota it can be a larger safety gain--a 63-percent drop in deaths by strengthening and changing the current laws.

On the other end of the spectrum, Connecticut is the closest to best practices, but it could realize an estimated 17-percent reduction in fatal crashes if they strengthened the practice hours, license age, and night driving restrictions.

Car crashes are the number-one killer of teens. And while fatalities have dropped significantly since 1996, there is still more can be done to reduce the over 3,000 teens that die every year on our roads.

For more on teen driving, see our distracted driving and teen safety special section.

10 smart cars for teens, starting them off right on the road of life

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