Local News

Graduated License Program Works To Reduce Number Of Teen-Related Accidents

Posted March 11, 2003 5:06 a.m. EST

— Research shows that inexperience is a leading factor in car accidents involving teenagers. Researchers say that is why North Carolina started a graduated license program that appears to be saving lives.

Officials claim 22 people die every day in crashes involving a teenage driver. To drive the point home, students at Broughton High School were visited by a person dressed as the grim reaper, who pronounced them dead.

"I think it should raise awareness about safe driving and how to be responsible behind the wheel," student Dixon Mckay said.

Ed Reeves knows about distracted teen drivers. Almost two years ago, his son, Bryan,

lost control of his car

on I-540 and hit a van. Bryan and his three friends died.

"Had he been aware that was a lot of danger in having a lot of people in the car, maybe talking and doing other distractions while you're driving, who knows if that may have had an effect," he said.

North Carolina started a graduated licensing program in 1997, which requires teens to have a year supervised driving time with an adult before they can get a license. Rob Foss, of the

University of North Carolina's Highway Safety Research Center

, played a big role in getting the program going.

Since it took effect, Foss said the percentage of 16- and 17-year-old drivers involved in accidents is down by 27 percent. He said the keys to the program's success are limiting night driving and the number of teen passengers.

"It removes the high-risk driving conditions for teens in their first year-and-a-half of driving," Foss said.

In December, a new provision took effect that says Level 2 drivers cannot have more than one passenger under 21 in their car without adult supervison. Reserachers say the change will go a long way to limiting driver distraction.

According to the UNC Highway Safety Center, the more passengers in a car driven by a teenager, the greater the risk of a crash. Officials claim a teen with one young passenger is 33 percent more likely to be in a crash than a teen driving alone. With two passengers in the vehicle, officials claim the chance of an accident jumps 137 percent.

Parents also need to talk to their teens about using the radio. A new report shows a third of the accidents caused by a distracted teen are blamed on adjusting the radio or CD player.