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Unintended Safety Implication Of Graduated Licensing?

Many older drivers can recall eagerly awaiting the chance to obtain a driver’s license. Programs designed to reduce teen car accidents may be changing the way new drivers approach that rite of passage. The change in behavior could have safety implications. Whereas two-thirds of teens had obtained their licenses by the age of 18 a mere 20 years ago, that number has dropped to 54 percent. Teens are waiting longer than ever to get their driver’s license. That delay may rob them of many of the intended benefits of graduated licensing programs.

The majority of states with graduated drivers licensing programs have applied those programs only to drivers under the age of 18. With a greater percentage of drivers waiting to get their licenses, it may be time to consider the purpose of those programs. Are 16-year-old drivers at risk because of their age, because of their inexperience or both? If age is the only issue, it might be considered beneficial to have drivers wait until they are 18. If the concern is one of inexperience, then drivers who wait are simply delaying the danger.

A survey conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that only 44 percent of teens get their driver’s licenses within one year of reaching the minimum age in their state. The survey also revealed that graduated driver’s license programs are not among the top reasons cited for the delay. The causes of the delays vary, but the concern is on the impact to safe driving represented by drivers who reach 18 with little to no driving experience.

Source: AAA News Room, “Teens Delaying Licensure-A Cause for Concern?,” 1 August 2013

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