While teen drivers account for only 14 percent of the population, they are involved in almost 30 percent of all motor vehicle collisions. Younger drivers are four times more likely to be involved in a car accident than experienced drivers.
In Connecticut, “Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Connecticut teens and are responsible for 39 percent of all deaths among 16- and 17-year-olds,” stated a spokesperson for the Connecticut Department of Public Health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the primary cause of teen death in the United States in 2008 was a car accident.
Teenagers are more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident mainly because of driver inexperience. New drivers don’t recognize dangerous situations as easily as experienced drivers, often following too closely or driving too fast for conditions.
Connecticut, along with many other states, recognized the danger of inexperienced drivers to themselves and to others on the road and created graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs to address this problem. These programs gradually extend full driving privileges, slowly increasing a teen driver’s responsibilities over time as he or she gets used to handling a car and driving in traffic.
Since August 2008, Connecticut’s graduated licensing program protects teen drivers by:
- Disallowing drivers under the age of 18 from driving after 11 pm or before 5 am, unless travelling for work, school or a religious activity
- Limiting who can ride with drivers who have been driving for less than six months to a parent, a driving instructor or other licensed driver who has had a clean driving record for at least four years
- Banning all use of electronic devices while driving
- Requiring all passengers to wear seatbelts
Connecticut’s program closely mirrors a national program introduced in the Senate in 2009 under the STANDUP Act (Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection Act). While the national program has not been enacted, data suggests that in states that have adopted their own GDL programs, fatal teen car accidents have decreased by 40 percent.
Sources: Graduated Licenses May Limit Driving Accidents Among Teens; Teen Drivers: Fact Sheet