Researchers from State Farm and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia studied injury data from over 55,000 teenage drivers and their passengers who had been in car accidents and discovered that 30% of them had received some sort of head injury as a result of the accident. The analysis recommends an emphasis on graduated driving laws across more states to allow young drivers to gain more driving experience while being safe and cautious.
Examples of graduated driving laws for minors include restricting cell phone usage (although some states ban the use of cell phones for texting and/or calling regardless of age), prohibiting or restricting nighttime driving, limiting the number of passengers present in the car with the young driver, “novice driver” decals (currently New Jersey is the only state that requires drivers under the age of 21 to put a decal on their vehicles identifying them as “newer” drivers), and requiring the driver to graduate from various driving stages (learner’s permit, a restricted stage, and a full privilege stage).
In addition to strengthening graduated driving laws, researchers behind the study are strongly encouraging states to focus on seat belt laws to reduce the number of injuries and deaths committed by young drivers each year. Delaware’s graduated driving law has a seatbelt provision that requires teenage drivers as well as their passengers under the age of 18 to wear their seat belts or risk having their license suspended for two months.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that auto crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers, so driving safety is a huge area of concern for minors. The number of 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths in the United States increased 11% between the first six months of 2010 and the first six months of 2011. The Governors Highway Safety Association stated, “Assuming the last half of the year saw a similar pattern, this will mark the first increase in driver deaths for this age group after eight straight years of declines.”
Although teen drivers won’t likely be thrilled with stricter graduated driving laws, the safety implications behind the laws might persuade some states to crack down and take a more aggressive stance with younger drivers. Not only will this keep teen drivers safer, it’ll make the roads safer for other motorists as well.