Health Team

Do delayed driver's licenses save teen lives?

Posted September 13, 2011
Updated September 14, 2011

Researchers at the University of North Carolina are evaluating whether graduated driver's licensing programs adopted across the United States are effective at saving teen motorists' lives.

In the past decade, wrecks killed more than 23,000 teenage drivers and 14,000 of their passengers. Graduated license programs hope to give teens more time to learn the rules of the road and increase their driving skills.

"The idea is to let them get some experience under their belts before we expose them to the full risks of driving," said Scott V. Masten, a doctoral researcher with the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

drivers license Graduated licenses serve younger teens

Some states allow a 16-year-old to be fully licensed. California allows full driver's licenses by age 17. North Carolina lifts all restrictions when the driver is age 18.

Dzenta Delic has been driving for two years, graduating from a permit to a full license.

"I started with my dad, and he taught me the rules. My mom let me drive her car, and so that was a real big step," Delic said. "When they felt I was ready, they let me take my test."

Researchers with the California DMV examined data from 22 years of fatal crashes with teenage drivers nationwide.

They found that graduated license programs saved lives among 16-year-old drivers. "They're also associated with an increase in fatalities among 18-year-old drivers," Masten said.

"We find that the benefits aren't as large as we had hoped they would be when we implemented these programs nationwide," he said of the study, which appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers said further studies are needed to figure out why older teens do not appear to benefit as much from current graduated driver's license programs.

Until then, they said, practice behind the wheel and paying attention on the road helps make better and safer drivers.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • LuvLivingInCary Sep 16, 2011

    well, if they ain't drivin' they ain't getting in a wreck. works for me..

  • ncmedic201 Sep 15, 2011

    "They found that graduated license programs saved lives among 16-year-old drivers. "They're also associated with an increase in fatalities among 18-year-old drivers," Masten said."

    Is this not stating that basically they are just prolonging the problem to the age of 18? Instead of withholding the license, why don't you spend more time teaching your child responsibility. I don't think withholding the license from a responsible teen is really being fair to them. We are supposed to be preparing them for adulthood.

  • RMC10 Sep 15, 2011

    No - because too many teens like that 14 year old the other day - after having that part 1 training now thinks she can DRIVE, she has access to a car and she CAN DRIVE. The only way it will save lives is if parents install a coded kill switch on the car to keep it out of a child's control until they actually can drive on full non-restricted license. The license age should be 18 plain and simple.

  • hpr641 Sep 14, 2011

    Someone needs to teach the adults how to drive first.
    - fayncmike

    And walk, too, for that matter. Just the other day, a lady was crossing against the light on a 4-lane divided highway and didn't appear from in front of an SUV until she was right in front of me and well within 100 feet ... in a 45mph zone (note - 45mph equals 66 feet per second). Why - because her bus stop was on the opposite corner and her bus was about 1/8 mile behind me ... and ended up having to stop at the light anyway.

  • fayncmike Sep 14, 2011

    Someone needs to teach the adults how to drive first.

  • readme Sep 14, 2011

    christiespencer, I think you've taken a set of data and drawn the wrong conclusion. Making a teen wait until 18 is just teaching them they aren't ready for responsibility and not accountable for their own actions. My son will have to prove himself to me, yes, just like you said. But I want him to know responsibility, and that means passing a driving test and maybe even holding down a job to pay for his own insurance. I don't view that as spoiling him at all. Now maybe if you gave him keys to his new Lexus after never seeing him drive then letting him party all summer, now that is a different story.

  • anonemoose Sep 14, 2011


  • readme Sep 14, 2011

    This is so annoying, and studies and data like this in the wrong hands are dangerous. Where do we draw the line? If we didn't drive until we were 30 we would all be safer too right? The point is, you don't take away their right to drive at 16. You give good education and you let them do it, then hold them accountable.

  • sjackson1066 Sep 14, 2011

    WELL my son is 17 and at 13 or 14 i didn't think he was ready for driving at ALL. Well has he EVER proved me wrong he is the most careful driver I could have EVER imagine. ESPECIALLY AT NIGHT HE IS SO AWESOME. I do realize not all teenagers are ready but I guess it is if there are mature enough. Most parents know if there children are ready...

  • ctkane Sep 14, 2011

    The answer is simple....most 16 & 17 year olds aren't driving by themselves yet due to the program...hence the first instance they are driving alone is generally 18....DUH!