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Study on teen licensing: N.C. crashes involving 16-year-olds drop dramatically

(Embargoed) CHAPEL HILL -- The number of crashes involving 16-year-old drivers in North Carolina decreased dramatically from 1996-97 to 1999, including a 57 percent drop in fatal crashes, according to a University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center study.

The study, to be published in the Oct. 3 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, examined the initial effects of graduated driver licensing, or GDL, on crashes involving 16-year-old North Carolina drivers. Dr. Robert D. Foss and colleagues at the center compared crash rates from 1996-97 before 16-year-olds were licensed under the GDL system and crash rates from 1999, when the new system was in place.

To control for other factors possibly influencing crashes, the authors compared changes among 16-year-old drivers with those ages 25 to 54. They also studied crashes per licensed driver to rule out the possibility that a decrease in the number of licensed drivers might explain the drop in crashes.

North Carolina instituted the GDL system on Dec. 1, 1997, requiring young beginning drivers to pass through two restricted driving periods before they receive their unrestricted licenses.

In level 1, beginning drivers who are at least 15 years of age (and younger than age 18) may drive only with the supervision of a designated adult. At the end of level 1, which lasts at least 12 months, drivers with no traffic violations in the last six months and who have passed a road test may move to level 2. At this stage, unsupervised driving is permitted between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. Driving after 9 p.m. may be done only with the adult supervisor in the vehicle. After at least six continuous months with no traffic violations at level 2, drivers graduate to a full, unrestricted license (level 3).

Foss, lead author of the study, said that the results, though remarkable, were not surprising to him and fellow investigators Dr. John R. Feaganes and Eric A. Rodgman. Becau
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Contact: David Williamson
david_williamson@unc.edu
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
2-Oct-2001


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