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Recent Studies Examine the Effectiveness of Graduated License Programs

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at the effects of state graduated licensing programs on the amount of car accidents that involve teenagers around the country. As a state that has an established graduated license program, Missouri policymakers should pay particular attention to the study.

Graduated License Study

To make this analysis, researchers looked at data from 1986 to 2007, which accounted for 132,000 car accidents involving teenagers from 16 to 19-years-old. The study found that the number of fatal car accidents involving 16 and 17-year-olds has decreased 26 percent in states that have graduated licensing programs. On the other hand, these same states saw an increase in fatal car accidents involving 18 and 19-year-olds: For drivers in this age group, the amount of car accidents jumped 12 percent in states with driving restrictions for teenagers.

Experts say that the reasons for the increased accident fatalities for 18 and 19-year-olds are not entirely clear and the topic needs further study, although some surmise that teens are bypassing the restrictions by waiting to get their driver’s license – ultimately still putting inexperienced drivers on the road, but just two years later.

Alternative Research

Although the American Medical Association study raises concerns about the safety of older teens on America’s roads, another study may have the opposite effect. According to research published in the Traffic Injury Prevention journal, fatalities from accidents involving teenagers 15 to 17-years-old decreased 30 percent in states with graduated licensing programs. However, unlike the American Medical Association study, this study found that for 18 and 19-year-olds, the accident rate remained the same whether a state had a graduated licensing program or not.

No matter what the national research shows, on a state level, law enforcement officers – who see the damage that inexperienced drivers can cause on Missouri’s roads every day – believe that graduated licensing programs are clearly beneficial.

In an interview with KRCG-TV, Sergeant Paul Reinch of the State Highway Patrol explained, “In the state of Missouri teenagers are about ten percent of drivers but account for one third of all crashes, with that low number of drivers out there but high number of crashes we’re just asking teenagers to take their time and obey all traffic signals and rules and just learn as you go and get behind the wheel.”