Connecticut’s "New" Teen Driving Law: Over a Year Later

Motor vehicle accidents are the major cause of death among U.S. teenagers. That statistic usually increases during the summer months when school is out and more teenagers are seen on the roads. In 2008, Connecticut passed tough new laws to decrease teen driving incidents. However, some are left wondering whether there is evidence to show the new law has actually improved safety.

Young drivers are more apt to take risks, partly due to the thrill of driving a vehicle or to their overconfidence in driving, and more so to their inexperience and willingness to engage in speeding, tailgating, running red lights, passing dangerously and violating other traffic laws.

Studies over a three-year period conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed that 60 percent of all driving violations by teenage drivers were for speeding, followed by seat belt violations at 18.6 percent. Another study indicated that teen drivers have the lowest rate of seat belt use and are more likely to underestimate hazardous driving conditions. These statistics prompted Connecticut to pass the 2008 driving law for 16 and 17 year olds. The bill included:

  • Earlier curfew times
  • Restrictions on cell phone use
  • Increased fines for certain moving violations
  • Increased suspension for reckless driving
  • Required parental instruction class on teen-driving laws

In 2009, the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles released a preliminary review that indicated a significant drop in convictions for driving-related offenses among teenagers since 2008, including a 43 percent drop in speeding convictions.

By exacting more penalties for violating traffic laws and making them more aware of the hazards of driving irresponsibly, Connecticut has undoubtedly seen more responsible teenage drivers on their roadways as a result of the new legislation. If fewer accidents are the result, then these restrictions will have furthered the public interest in providing safer highways.