Probationary License Restrictions
Studies show that drivers are at their highest lifetime crash risk the day they drive home alone from the DMV with their license. Although considered “licensed,” crash rates for new drivers remain elevated for the next six months or 1,000 miles driven. It takes years to lower that crash risk: Young driver crash rates remain twice that of older drivers until about age 25.
This is why GDL provisions include instituting restrictions on newly-licensed drivers through “probationary” licensure. Also known as “provisional” or “junior” licenses depending on the state issuing them, these licenses include certain restrictions for a period of time to help new drivers gain experience under safe conditions. By reducing their exposure to known factors associated with teen crash risk during their first months of independent driving, teens can safely gain skills and maturity. The known factors include nighttime driving and teen passengers.
Nighttime Driving Restrictions
The fatal crash rate of 16-year-old drivers is nearly twice as high at night. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 16- to 17-year-old drivers only drive 14 percent of the time between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., yet 32 percent of their crashes occur during those hours. In addition, 58 percent of teen nighttime crashes happen between 9 p.m. and midnight.
Studies have shown nighttime restrictions to be effective. States with them in place have reported up to a 60 percent reduction in crashes during the restricted hours. However, half of the states with GDL laws in place do not restrict driving until midnight or later.
Peer passengers also are a deadly distraction. Just one teen passenger doubles the risk a teen driver will get into a fatal crash; three or more passengers quadruples the risk, as the chart from a study published in JAMA below shows.
Fatality Rates of 16 to 17-year-old Drivers By Number of Passengers
Source: Chen L, et al. (2000). Carrying passengers as a risk factor for crashes fatal to 16 and 17 year old drivers. JAMA, 238,1578-1617.
Despite these dire statistics, a 2007 study conducted by The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and State Farm Insurance Companies® found that only 1 in 10 teens knows that giving a friend a ride is dangerous. This crash risk, however, is not just for the driver. Another CHOP/State Farm study released in 2008 found that starting at ages 12 to 14, a passenger’s risk of dying in a crash with a teen driver doubles, and the risk continues to rise for each teen year. Most teen passengers who die in crashes are riding with a teen driver.Perhaps more astounding: Most teens do not consider themselves inexperienced drivers. Although 60 percent of teens believe inexperience heavily influences driving safety, only 15 percent consider their peers to be inexperienced. According to other qualitative research conducted by CHOP, teens may incorrectly associate having a license with experience, leading to a false sense of safety.