Local News

State's Teen Driving Laws Get Good Grades From National Survey

Posted December 16, 2004

— One out of four 16-year-old drivers in North Carolina is involved in an accident, but the state has taken several steps to lower that number.

Thursday, a new study was released that singled out North Carolina for keeping teen drivers safe. The study comes from the non profit group, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

North Carolina gets high marks for the Graduated Drivers License law, which requires teens to take baby steps before they hit the highway on their own.

The law won't allow teens to drive after 9 p.m. or with more than one teenage passenger.

"I think it's been a wonderful thing that North Carolina has implemented," said Reginald Flythe, a driver's education teacher.

The law is one reason the study gives North Carolina it's highest rating-green -- only 12 other states get that.

Even teens who've advanced to a full fledged license say they still try to follow some of those rules.

"I try not to keep a lot of people in my car," said Curtis Cunningham, a teen driver. "It's a distraction. That's how a lot of accidents happen."

Some teens still ignore the rules. They're the focus of a pilot program officers are conducting in Guilford County right now.

"They're doing some special enforcement efforts that involve checkpoints, saturation patrols, making sure teens are following the restrictions," said Arthur Goodwin of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center.

Since the Graduated Driver's License law has been in place, crashes with 16-year-old drivers are down by a third and deaths are cut in half.

But with 32 deadly crashes involving a 16-year-old driver last year laws can't do it all.

"Unfortunately even with a law that's as good as we have here in North Carolina, fatalities and crashes will still occur," Goodwin said. "It's impossible to prevent them all."

The UNC Highway safety research center would like to see the pilot program in Guilford County expand across the state.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety only had one problem with our Graduated Driver's License Law: The group wants teens to have mandatory 30 to 50 hours supervised driving during the permit stage.

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