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Study examines frequency of car accidents under graduated licensing

In 1997, Michigan instituted a graduated driver's license program. Before they can receive an unrestricted license, 16 and 17 year-olds in Michigan are required to drive with a responsible adult for at least 50 hours and complete two driver's education courses. Until they do so, the teens are restricted in the times they can drive and the passengers they are allowed to have in the car.

These restrictions seem to be effective in reducing the numbers of car accidents among younger drivers. Fatal accidents involving 16-year-old drivers have declined since the graduated license was implemented. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association identifies the decline in fatal accidents among 16-year-olds, but founds that the number has risen among 18-year-olds. The authors of the study suggest that graduated licensing should be extended to all drivers under the age of 21.

Younger drivers generally have better vision and faster reaction times than older drivers. Unfortunately, these advantages are balanced against the lack of experience and sometimes questionable judgment of younger drivers. Restrictions on passengers can be effective in reducing in-car distractions for younger drivers and the restrictions on the hours that younger drivers can drive reduces the risk of accidents for drivers during dangerous nighttime hours.

Of course some young drivers operate their vehicles in a very safe manner, but improving young driver's ability to concentrate effectively on the important task of driving and make good decisions would make the roads safer for everyone. All drivers will have to leave the proverbial nest of graduated licensing at some point, but the more skills and experience they are able to acquire.

Source: Battle Creek Enquirer "May be best to extend graduated driver license," Sept. 19, 2011

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