Fewer Teen Car Crashes Attributed to Graduated Driver Licenses

Published 08/01 2014 05:07AM

Updated 08/01 2014 08:25AM

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The number of teens dying on Arkansas roads is down more than half.  It's the latest piece of good news that researchers say stems from a state law working as intended.

Arkansas lawmakers passed the graduated drivers license five years ago, to control when the youngest drivers got behind the wheel and who could ride with them.

Results are positive. 

The combined study from Arkansas Children's Hospital and Arkansas Center for Health Improvement found in the two years prior to the law's passage and the two years after -crash rates for drivers 14 to 19 have dropped 23-percent.

Fatal crashes are down 57-percent.

The graduated drivers license restricts teen driving between 11pm and 4am.

The data used in the study is from 2010 and 2011.

Researchers hope 2012 and 2013 data, when available, will continue to show positive results.

(KARK, Little Rock)

(News release)- Fewer teens have died in car crashes since the 2009 implementation of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) according to data from a new study conducted by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) in partnership with the Injury Prevention Center at Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH).

In comparing the two years prior to the GDL's passage with data from two years after its implementation, the study titled Continued Evaluation of the Arkansas Graduated Driver License revealed the following:

     Among 14-19-year-olds, crash rates dropped 23.6 percent and the rate of fatal crashes dropped by 57.5 percent.

     Among 16-18-year-old drivers, crash rates dropped 28.5 percent and the rate of fatal crashes dropped by 55.7 percent.

The study found that the greatest reduction in the number of single vehicle crashes and crash-related fatalities, with the study revealing a statistically significant 66% decrease in fatalities involving teen drivers between the hours of 11 PM to 5:59 AM. No other time period studied showed statistically significant improvement. This correlates directly to a key provision of the GDL which restricts teen driving between the hours of 11 PM and 4 AM.

"It is very encouraging that the decrease in fatalities and crashes for this target age group has continued through the 2011 data," said Dr. Mary Aitken, director of the Injury Prevention Center at Arkansas Children's Hospital and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. "While other factors like safer vehicle and road design are likely contributing to this improvement, we know that the provisions of the GDL are a key component to keeping teen drivers safer, because teen drivers are learning to drive under less risky conditions."

The GDL is a tiered approach designed to minimize distractions and reduce exposure to higher risk driving situations as new drivers gain driving experience. Just a few years ago, if a teenager was 16 years of age, he or she had only to pass a written exam and a short driving test to receive an unrestricted license. Licensed teenagers were free to operate motor vehicles with very little experience or knowledge. Arkansas Code 27-16-804(f) was passed by the Arkansas General Assembly in 2009 with the purpose "to improve the safety of roads and highways in the state by addressing issues related to the licensing of youthful drivers; to amend the law regarding restricted driver's licenses, learner's licenses, and intermediate licenses; and for other purposes."

"Our evaluation clearly shows that this legislation is working to save teen lives," said Dr. Joe Thompson, director of ACHI and Arkansas' Surgeon General. "As a parent, I have appreciated the support the law provides. It helps me reinforce to my kids and their friends the need for young drivers to gain experience before they're given full driving freedom."

These results are positive for all Arkansans, particularly because motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for teenagers between the ages of 14 to 18 from 2000 to 2007 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These trends likely reflect many factors, including the new GDL and other policies, improved awareness of safety measures and other considerations.

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