Teenage drivers in California may not like how strict the Graduated Driver Licensing law is, but a new report issued by Automobile Club of Southern California shows that the number of fatal and injury crashes caused by teens has dropped significantly since the law was first implemented in 1998.
The crash rate among 16-year-olds has gone down 68 percent, while it's gone down 51 percent for 17-year-olds. The Auto Club reports that in 2010 (the most recent data available), 8000 16-and-17-year olds were killed or injured in a car crash in California, a stark contrast to the 18,000 teens killed or injured the year before the GDL law was implemented. All 50 states have some form of graduated driver's licensing regulations that vary from state to state, but the law in California requires that teens have an instruction permit for at least six months and complete 50 hours of supervised driving (10 of those hours must be completed at night) by a parent or guardian. After earning their license, teens are not allowed to transport any passengers under the age of 20 for one year, unless a licensed driver over 25 is also present. Teens are also not allowed to drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. for the first year.
Although the drop in rates can be highly attributed to the GDL, other factors may have a part in it too, such as improved automotive safety features like airbags and electric stability control systems. The Auto Club says that the weak economy may also play a role in the drop. To test these claims, the Auto Club analyzed the crash rate among those not covered by the GDL law, specifically adults over the age of 20. The crash rate went down 23 percent, which is still far exceeded by the sharp drop among 16-and 17-year-olds.
"That makes a pretty strong case that GDL played a significant role in reducing teen crash rates among 16 and 17-year-olds," said the Automobile Club of Southern California's Senior Traffic Safety Researcher Steven A. Bloch.