Kids and cars can be lethal combination. According to Centers for Disease Control data, car crashes are the number one cause of death among U.S. teens, responsible for more than one in three teen deaths. When factored per miles driven, the same data claims kids 16 to 19 are four times more likely to crash than adults; in 2009 8 teens in that age group died every day as a result of vehicle accidents. And the crash rate for 16-year-olds is 15 times that of drivers aged 20 to 24. None of which is likely to either deter your child from wanting to drive or result in lower car insurance quotes for your teenager when you finally relent. Something is, however, proving highly effective: graduated drivers licensing.
Graduated drivers licensing programs incrementally introduces driving privileges while allowing teen drivers to develop skills. A study by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Injury Research and Policy found that graduated driver license programs reduce fatal crashes among 16-year-olds by an average of 11 percent.
Specifics vary from state to state, but the basics of the most graduated license programs work this way:
- Your teen meets the minimum age requirement (typically 15.5 years) and passes a written drivers’ test and a vision test. At that point, he can drive as long as there is a licensed adult supervisor along for the ride. If he goes six consecutive months without a crash or a conviction for a moving violation, he graduates to the next stage.
- Your teen is at least 16 and has completed Stage One. She must pass an on-the-road driving test. At that point, she can drive unrestricted and unsupervised during daylight hours, but must have a licensed adult supervisor with her after dark. If she makes it 12 months in a row without a crash or traffic ticket conviction, she can progresses to the next stage.
- Your 18-year-old has completed Stages One and Two, has full driving privileges and has been recommended by your state for a driver’s license with full privileges, which will remain in effect as long your teen remains crash and conviction free for 12 consecutive months.
Currently 13 states have some form of the three-stage system in effect. These include California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon and Vermont have a modified two-stage graduated licensing system. Wherever the programs have been implemented, states have seen a decrease in the number of teen deaths, which is the reason so many authorities including the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, AAA, CDC, MADD, National Sheriffs Association and many major insurance companies support graduated drivers’ licenses.