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Driving Restrictions Help Prevent Deadly Crashes Among 16-Year-Olds
Date:9/14/2011

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Teenagers may complain about so-called graduated driver licensing laws -- which require young drivers to gain driving experience in low-risk situations before obtaining full driving privileges -- but a new study shows that they dramatically reduce fatal crashes among 16-year-olds.

However, the same study found that the graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws don't have the same effect on 18-year-old drivers. The rate of fatal crashes increased slightly in states with the strictest laws.

"The finding that's of the most interest is that states where GDL laws are the strongest were associated with a 26 percent reduction in fatal crashes in 16-year-olds," said the study's lead author, Scott Masten, a research manager in the research and development branch at the California Department of Motor Vehicles in Sacramento.

"But, in those same areas, there was also a 12 percent increase in the number of fatal crashes for 18-year-old drivers," said Masten, who began this research as part of his doctoral dissertation while at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Results of the study are published in the Sept. 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Most graduated licensing programs include a beginner stage (supervised driving, culminating in a driving test), intermediate stage (which restricts unsupervised driving in high-risk situations such night travel) and the "full privileges" stage (standard driving license). GDL laws have been adopted in all states and in the District of Columbia, but program requirements vary. Some allow teens under 18 to graduate to a full license, but only after they've completed a lengthy driver education program.

Intermediate licenses (between a learner's permit and a full license) often allow teens to drive unsupervised, but limit a teen to day-time driving and
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