Young Driver

Since graduated driver’s licensing laws were adopted by all 50 states and the District of Columbia between 1996 and 2011, research supported by the National Institutes of Health shows that these programs have helped reduce the number of fatal crashes among 16-17-year-olds by 8 to 14 percent.

These results suggest a marked improvement over traditional driver education programs, which help students pass a licensing examination but don’t necessarily produce safer drivers, according to a new policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics. In its executive summary, the statement noted that its comparison studies ”consistently reveal no safety effect associated with traditional driver education.”

“These [graduated licensing] laws can reduce fatalities among [teenaged] drivers, but they’re not well-enforced, and the rates go up once kids turn 18,” says Dr. Brian D. Johnston, co-author with Dr. Elizabeth M. Alderman of the Academy’s new policy statement.

Graduated licensing programs generally require new drivers to complete three “behind the wheel” phases before receiving their license. The first stage involves issuing a learner’s permit, which allows the new driver to practice driving with a licensed driver aged 21 or older in the front seat. The second stage allows driving, but only under certain conditions: for example, not late at night, and without teen passengers in the car. After successfully completing these phases, the young driver receives a full license – in New York, as early as age 17.

New York’s Graduated Driver’s License Program

The minimum age at which a teenager can begin his or her graduated driver’s license program (GDL) is on their 16th birthday by obtaining their learners’ permit. In order to complete Phase I, they must:

  • Have their permit for at least six months
  • Complete a minimum supervised driving period of 50 hours, 15 of them at night.

They then move to the second, “intermediate,” stage where they may drive normally, but with limits on when they drive independently and restrictions on the number of passengers who can be with them in the vehicle. Eventually, they can shed those restrictions, but only when turning age 17 and after they successfully complete a parallel driver education course.

GDLs are Just the First Step to Creating Safer Drivers

Even when graduated license policies are enforced, research still shows that teenage driver crash rates remain high in their early months of independent driving. And though researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development note that it “may take only a few hours behind the wheel for most novice drivers to develop reasonable behind the wheel skills … [s]afe driving habits, due to their complexity, are acquired over time and through experience.”

They are also a product of observation. And here’s where good parental direction (and example) are critical. Parental influence on driving behavior starts long before kids get their learner’s permit. If Mom and Dad drive while distracted, so too will their kids once they get behind the wheel. If they drink and drive, drive recklessly, speed, or drive aggressively, so too do those behaviors trickle down to their young drivers when they have the keys.

So even though the state has refined new driver programs to hopefully make them safer, your kids still take their cues from you. Parents are the last – and, as it turns out, most important – mile to creating safe, responsible drivers.

If you or a family member has been injured by a youthful driver, Kaplan Lawyers PC can help. Contact us anytime by phoning the office nearest you or through this website to schedule your free case evaluation.