Study: passengers with young drivers boost accidents, graduated licensing might cut toll


The new study "provides sufficient evidence for policy-makers to improve the traffic safety of teen-age drivers, their passengers and other motorists," Foss wrote. "This can be achieved by prohibiting teen-agers in the second stage of (graduated driver licensing) systems from driving after 10 p.m. and from driving with teen-age passengers.

"The end result of prohibiting GDL second-stage teen-age drivers from transporting passengers would be to prevent some...deaths," he added. "In states without GDL systems or those with systems that do not prohibit driving with teen-age passengers, parents of 16- and 17-year-old drivers would be well advised to impose these restrictions themselves."

Motor vehicle death rates in the United States have declined dramatically during the past two decades because of technological improvements in vehicles and roadways, increased seat belt use and decreased alcohol-impaired driving, Foss wrote. However, death rates for 16-year-old drivers also have increased dramatically. Such inexperienced drivers not only unintentionally threaten their own and their passengers' lives, but also the lives of occupants of other vehicles.

Twenty-four states have enacted graduated driver licensing and despite their newness, studies already have shown declines of crashes among beginning drivers ranging from 7 percent to 32 percent, he said.

During 1998, only 5 percent of fatally injured 16-year-old drivers had been drinking alcohol, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Although the proportion of fatally injured 17-year-old drivers who had been drinking climbed to 14 percent, that was only half the rate of fatally injured drinking drivers aged 21 to 29.

"Thus, although alcohol use by young drivers is clearly dangerous, it is apparent that the contribution of alcohol to crashes pales in comparison to inexperience, impulsiveness and poor judgment by drivers and distractions by passengers," Foss wrote.


Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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