Teen driving laws save lives

Dec. 29, 2012 @ 04:00 AM

A new report from the N.C. Child Fatality Task Force finds that road safety laws aimed at teen drivers have saved lives statewide, but Randolph and Davidson counties rank high in the state for crashes among the youngest teen drivers.
Randolph County ranked 11th highest statewide and highest among the three Triad counties in per capita crashes between 2005 and 2009 for 16- and-17-year-olds with more than 900 crashes per 10,000 population. Davidson was 13th with 891 crashes in the age group. Guilford was 51st with 714 crashes.
Crashes involving young drivers are more common in towns and cities, but accidents on rural roads are more likely to be fatal or result in serious injuries, according to the report. One way to improve driving among the youngest teen drivers is more supervised practice.
“Local programs are also needed to support and encourage parents of novice drivers to ensure their teens do a great deal of supervised driving in a wide range of conditions during their learner period,” said Robert Foss, director of the University of North Carolina Center for the Study of Young Drivers.
The Graduated Driver Licensing, started in 1997,  remains successful in reducing the number of crashes by young drivers —  38 percent for 16-year-olds and 20 percent for 17-year-olds.
“GDL is highly effective in minimizing young driver crashes because it replaces punitive approaches with a strategy grounded in the science of how young people learn new skills,” said Elizabeth Hudgins, task force executive director.
Quick and reasonably certain rewards or punishments typically carry more weight for young drivers than those that seem unlikely, such as loss of license or high fines,  Hudgins said. Fear-based programs, such as simulating or showing the gory aftermath of car crashes are not as effective.
“These kinds of programs rarely produce any change because they are based on an oversimplified understanding of teenage driver risks and of human behavior more generally,” Foss said. “Decades of research have disproven scare tactics as an effective learning technique.”
The task force also offered several recommendations for local communities to help improve teen driving:
— Include concrete steps such as putting the cell phone in the trunk to prevent talking or texting.
—Enforcement efforts should be highly visible, but as much of a suprprise as possible.
—Safety reminders need to include passengers.
 

The GDL

Restrictions:  The Graduated Drivers License restricts teen driving at night or with multiple friends in the car and requires drivers to learn in the company of a supervising driver.

Crash Scores:  Randolph, 11th highest for 16- 17-year-old drivers, 18th for drivers 16-20 and 36th for drivers 18-20; Davidson, 13th for drivers 16-17, 24th for drivers 16-20 and 44th for drivers 18-20; Guilford, 51st in the 16-17 group, 33rd in the 16-20 group and 31st in the 18-20 group.