by Max Brantley
An interesting editorial in USA Today notes a decline in youth traffic deaths in states with so-called graduated licensing laws, which prevent full driving privileges until the age of 17. Arkansas is among a dozen or so states said to have made little effort in this direction. They are mostly rural states where, it is argued, driving limits would inconvenience parents and working teens. Still ...
A report finds that when states have strong graduated licensing laws, the rate of fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers is 18% lower. The study, released Monday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, shows that the more comprehensive the restrictions, the more lives are saved. Laws that are cosmetic do little. The strictest versions cut fatal crash rates by 21%.
Several restrictions are proving particularly effective:
• Raising the driving age above 16. Data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show that a single year makes a huge difference: Driving at 16 is riskier than at 17, 18 or 19.
• Restrictions on driving at night.
• Limits on the number of passengers. A teen driver's risk of dying more than doubles with two or more male passengers on board.
• Requiring at least 30 hours of supervised driving to get an unrestricted license.