Graduated drivers licenses reduce teen fatalities

So says NIH news.

Programs that grant privileges to new drivers in phases — known as graduated licensing programs — dramatically reduce the rate of teen driver fatal crashes, according to three studies funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Such graduated licensing laws were adopted by all 50 states and the District of Columbia between 1996 and 2011. The NIH-supported research effort shows that such programs reduced the rate of fatal crashes among 16- 17-year-olds by 8 to 14 percent.

This one caught my eye because my second child is now taking drivers education (yikes!) and my oldest has her driving permit; North Carolina has a staged drivers license approach that is very different from when I got my license (one day no, then next day yes). It seems to have been a good change.

This NIH press release above refers to 3 NIH-funded studies, but doesn’t link directly to these studies that they are presumably trying to publicize (at least give the reference!). I will try and hunt down the references and link them after class.

Update: Some of these papers are not so easy to get. I am out of gas writing on these today, but will pick it up next week.

Abstract. James C. Fell. “An Evaluation of Graduated Driver Licensing Effects on Fatal Crash Involvements of Young Drivers in the United States”. Traffic injury prevention (1538-9588), 12 (5), p. 423.

Full Paper. Lio-Hui Chen et al. Graduated Driver Licensing Programs and Fatal Accidents among 16 Year olds. Pediatrics 2006;

About Don Taylor
Professor of Public Policy (with appointments in Business, Nursing, Community and Family Medicine, and the Duke Clinical Research Institute), and Chair of the Academic Council at Duke University . I am one of the founding faculty of the Margolis Center for Health Policy. My research focuses on improving care for persons who are dying, and I am co-PI of a CMMI award in Community Based Palliative Care. I teach both undergrads and grad students at Duke. On twitter @donaldhtaylorjr

5 Responses to Graduated drivers licenses reduce teen fatalities

  1. Jonathan says:

    Would these results complicate similar findings on drunk driving?

  2. Don Taylor says:

    Not sure what you mean? That other things were happening other than license changes to make the causal link unclear?

  3. EB Hansen says:

    I’m curious if they looked at whether the restrictions reduced an individuals risk or just time shifted it. Are the 16 and 17 year olds who had the restrictions on them, having more accidents when they are 18-19?

  4. Robert McKinney says:

    Arkansas’ graduated licenses were not restrictive enough for us. Neither of our children were allowed to drive without a parent before they were 18, They got learner’s permits at 14 so they had 4 years of driving experience (100s of hours under a wide range of conditions) before they were alone in a car.

    Our son is accident free at 24. Our daughter is 19, away at college, and has had no accidents other someone running into her car in a parking garage.

  5. steve says:

    One of the major downsides of working at a trauma center is walking out of an OR to tell parents their teenage child has died. The graduated licenses that do not let these teens drive with other kids in the car are a very important part of their success. I wish they had a curfew that applied specifically to special school events like the prom.


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