Reducing teen crash rates

Reducing Driving Hours Saves Teen Lives

Canada’s Traffic Injury Research Foundation announced that by limiting a teenage driver’s time behind the wheel of a car, and reducing the number of people in his or her vehicle, accident rates among teen drivers can be reduced by 20 percent.

Researchers compared 2002 crash data amongst 16-year-old drivers in both Oregon and Ontario, Canada. Oregon has restrictions on unsupervised driving at night, while Ontario did not have any restrictions at that time.

Accidents among 16-year-old drivers who were at the wheel of a vehicle where injuries and fatalities occurred were 20 percent fewer in Oregon than Ontario, giving strong evidence that Graduated Drivers Licensing programs (GDL) can make a big difference.

Auto accidents are the leading cause of death among young people, killing around 6,000 drivers between the ages of 16 and 20. According to safety authorities, the lack of driving skills and experience make teenage drivers more prone to accidents.

“Teens who obey traffic rules and regulations, follow GDL regulations, and have actively involved parents are much less likely to crash,” commented J. Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which sponsored the study.

Licensing laws that put restrictions on young drivers vary from state to state, and some are less demanding than others, as was the case in Oregon, with stronger GDL laws than Ontario.

Oregon prevents unsupervised driving by new drivers between midnight and 5 a.m. and prohibits passengers under age 20 from being in a car driven by an entry-level driver during the first six months of receiving a driver’s license.

According to Dan Mayhew, vice president of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, the findings, based on law enforcement accident data, imply that “the restrictions placed in Oregon are effective in keeping the crash rates down.”

Another separate phone study conducted with 1,000 teenage drivers in Oregon and British Columbia found that 30 percent of teens that had not been involved in an accident also ever violated the passenger rules during the first six months of their intermediary stage.

Sixteen percent of young people who had accidents also said they had not violated the restrictions during the same period.

The findings show that teens that were involved in accidents were more inclined to break driving laws. In Oregon, 33 percent of teenagers who were involved in accidents admitted to receiving a traffic ticket, compared to 13 percent of teens that received tickets but had not crashed.

Mayhew commented that the GDL laws are “not a panacea” but work as an effective tool in reducing crashes among beginning drivers.

The National Safety Commission and Lowest Price Traffic School offer safe teen driving resources for new drivers and their parents. Find out more about our monthly newsletter for teen drivers and the Driver Education Guide for Parents.