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California could save 133 lives with stricter teen driving laws

Although every state has some form of graduated licensing laws for teenage drivers, a new report indicates that stricter laws could save 2,000 lives if implemented universally throughout the country. However, a youth rights association is opposing the move toward stricter laws for teen drivers, stating that such limitations are discriminatory to members of that age group.

Currently, auto accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Specifically, teenage drivers are four times more likely to be involved in a car crash than older, more experienced drivers. As a result, several states have implemented graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws in the hopes of decreasing the number of teenagers injured or killed in car accidents.

The restrictions included in GDL laws vary significantly from state to state. California, for example, requires drivers under the age of 18 to be accompanied by a parent or guardian during the first 12 months of having their provisional driver license when they are driving any other passengers under the age of 20 and when they are driving between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. The report estimates that 133 Californians could be saved if the state increased the limitations on teen drivers.

There are seven components that safety advocates hope state lawmakers will consider: a minimum age of 16 to get a learner's permit, six months with a permit before driving unsupervised, a minimum of 30 hours of supervised driving during the permit state, intermediate licensing at age 16 1/2, intermediate nighttime driving restrictions, intermediate restrictions on the number of passengers, and full licenses at age 17. Currently, only two states have implemented all seven components.

Although it is unlikely that all 50 states will adopt all recommended GDL law components, it is promising that lawmakers are taking steps toward increased safety on the roads.

Source: USA Today, "Study: Phased-in teen driving privileges could save 2,000," Larry Copeland, Dec. 6, 2011

Source: California Department of Motor Vehicles, "Questions and Answers about the Changes to Provisional Driver License Restrictions"

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