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Federal agency recommends strengthening teen driver laws

In 2000, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) began rating the states in terms of their graduated driver's license laws and other legislation specifically applicable to teenage drivers. During the first ranking, six states and the District of Columbia earned a rating of 'good,' while six were ranked 'poor.' In the most recent assessment, 36 states and D.C. were rated 'good' and no states were rated 'poor.'

But despite the apparent increase in teen driving laws, the IIHS says that there is still much work to be done to prevent teen car accident fatalities. If every state adopted the five components that the IIHS deems essential to teen driving laws, more than 500 deaths and 10,000 crashes could be prevented every year. Specifically, the agency says that California could see a 25 percent decline in fatal crashes among drivers 15 to 17 years old if it adopted the IIHS recommendations.

The five components recommended by the IIHS are as follows:

  • A minimum permit age of 16
  • A minimum intermediate license age of 17
  • Nighttime driving restrictions during the intermediate stage
  • At least 65 supervised hours of driving practice prior to licensing
  • A ban on all teenage passengers

It is not known whether legislators in California or other states will implement these recommendations. But according to IIHS Senior Vice President for Research Ann McCartt, doing so will cause a near-instant decline in crashes on California roads. "States could see immediate reductions in fatal crashes and collision claims," she said, "as soon as the beefed-up provisions are in force."

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, "States could sharply reduce teen crash deaths by strengthening graduated driver licensing laws," May 31, 2012

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