Teen Drivers at High Risk for Car Accidents

Across the nation, lawmakers are
imposing a variety of restrictions on teen drivers in the hopes of stemming
high crash rates. From limiting the hours when teens can be behind the wheel to
limiting the number of passengers a young driver may transport, teens are
facing a dizzying array of protections courtesy of state legislatures across
the country.

In California, for example, drivers
under the age of 18 are required to have a provisional driver license for 12
months before they can obtain an unrestricted license. With a provisional
license, unless accompanied by an adult, a teenager cannot drive any passengers
under the age of 20 or drive between the hours of 11:00 PM and 5:00 AM.

Graduated Licensing, Delayed
Licensing, Passenger Bans Save Lives

These restrictions are warranted;
teens are more likely to have accidents, but limiting driving privileges helps
to curb these accidents. Teens are four times as likely to crash as drivers
over 20, according to U.S. News. This is likely due to their relative
inexperience at driving coupled with the natural tendency of teens to feel
invulnerable to risk.

The Insurance Institute for Highway
Safety (IIHS) documented a seven percent reduction in fatal crash rates by delaying
the minimum licensing age from 16 to 16 and a half. IIHS also found that bans
on teen driving after 9 p.m. reduce fatal crashes by 18 percent. Passenger bans
reduce the death toll by 21 percent.

Driving and Cell Phones a Fatal Mix

Distracted
driving is a national epidemic with an intensified effect on teen
drivers. Teen drivers are more prone to cell phone use and particularly
texting, which too often proves deadly when combined with driving.

According to the Harvard Center for
Risk Analysis, distracted driving results in 2,600 deaths, 333,000 injuries and
1.5 million property damage claims each year. A study by the National Highway
Safety Transportation Administration and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute
in 2006 pointed to cell phones as the most common driver distraction. When a
driver uses a cell phone to send a text message, the risk of crashing increases
significantly.

It’s no wonder, then, that states have
acted to take cell phones out of the hands of inexperienced drivers. Twenty-one
states and the District of Columbia ban all cell phone use by novice drivers,
and another nine ban texting for novice drivers. Twenty states and the District
of Columbia have enacted texting bans across the board.

Ultimately, nothing will completely
eliminate the disparity between accident rates among teen drivers and more
experienced drivers. Driving can be dangerous, and part of the danger comes
from a lack of experience — but everyone has to start as an inexperienced
driver at some point. However, through appropriate restrictions, lawmakers can
help to reduce the risk of accidents for young drivers and others sharing the
roads.

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