State legislators in 48 of the 50 states believe they’ve curbed the leading cause of death among 15- to 20-year-olds and made their roads safer by restricting teen driving through “graduated drivers license” programs. The country’s final holdouts, Wyoming and Montana, are moving to join the trend.
To try to reduce young drivers’ high crash risk, states in the mid-1990s began instituting a three-tiered licensing system, which phases in full driving privileges through a learner’s permit, an intermediate licensing stage and age and required experience at the wheel. In 1998, a transportation money bill approved by the U.S. Congress gave states a financial incentive for going to graduated licensing. Most states limit when teens can drive, who can be in the car and at what age they can gain intermediate and full driving privileges. All but 11 states include nighttime driving restrictions for novice drivers. Fatal accidents involving 16 year-olds in the U.S. decreased 26 percent between 1993 and 2003, despite an increase in this age’s population, reports a study released last month.