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National Teen Driver Safety Week 2014: Part 2

National Teen Driver Safety Week is going on now! In part one of this post, we talked about the disturbingly high rate of teenager traffic fatalities and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “5 to drive” rules to keep teen drivers safe. In today’s post we will examine graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws.

GDL laws have proved effective in reducing crash rates for young teenage drivers, particularly 16- and 17-year-olds. These laws put more restrictions on younger teenage drivers that gradually lift as they age and gain more driving experience. GDL programs permit new drivers to gain experience by limiting their exposure to risky situations, such as driving at night or with multiple passengers, before getting full driving privileges.

In general, GDL laws do not apply to teenagers who begin driving at age 18 or older. Today a significant number of teens are waiting to get their licenses, so they are not subject to the restrictions of the GDL laws. Two new studies by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggest that not only do GDL laws help reduce accidents for drivers under 18, but that they could be beneficial for new drivers 18 and older. Inexperience is a major cause of accidents, even more so than age, and while 18-year-old beginner drivers may be more mature, they are still inexperienced.

Georgia has its own graduated driver licensing law, the Teenager and Adult Driver Responsibility Act (TADRA), which applies to teens between 15 and 18. It is a three-step system consisting of a learner’s permit, an intermediate provisional license, and a full license. In step one, upon passing a written driver’s test, a 15-year-old may obtain an instructional permit that allows her to drive only with a licensed driver aged 21 or older. In step two, a teenager between 16 and 18 who has held a learner’s permit for a year and a day and who passes a road test may obtain a class D (restricted) driver’s license. Finally, in step three a driver who is 18 or older and who has not incurred any major traffic violations (e.g., DUI, hit and run, etc.) may procure a class C (full) license. For more information on the Act and its restrictions, check out the Georgia Department of Driver Services’ website.

TADRA has been successful in reducing the fatal crash rates for teenage drivers. Still, lawmakers may wish to consider extending the program to cover teens who start driving at or after 18. We want to do all we can to bring down the fatality rate for teen drivers.