Reducing teen fatalities: do graduated licensing programs help solve the problem?

Carlo Giacomo Prato

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


Teenage novice drivers are involved in traffic accidents more than any other age group, in particular during their first year of unsupervised driving. Increasing their driving experience on the one hand reduces their risk of crash involvement, but on the other hand raises their exposure to risk. In the last decade, nearly every state in the U.S. has introduced a Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program to limit the exposure of teenage drivers to high-risk conditions during the first years after licensure. This chapter evaluates the effectiveness of GDL programs in reducing teen traffic fatalities over the period between 1992 and 2006. Count data models are estimated for panel data, where traffic-related fatalities are dependent variables calculated per state and per year for various age cohorts. Model specifications include indicators that specify the implementation of GDL programs within a state during a certain year, as well as exogenous variables that control for other potentially relevant determinants of fatality reduction, exposure to risk in different states, and macroeconomic factors that possibly influence crash rates. Results show that GDL programs have been quite effective in reducing traffic fatalities among 15-17-year-olds. Specifically, the average graduated licensing system is evaluated to decrease teen fatality counts by 11.1%. In addition, results illustrate that the most restrictive policies – according to the taxonomy of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – have been the most effective. “Good” programs are estimated to reduce teen traffic fatalities by 15.1%, “fair” programs by 7.8%, and “marginal” programs by 5.1%. Last, results suggest that GDL regulations do not have traffic-safety implications for young drivers who have already reached full licensure, and that even the effect on 17-year-olds is inferior to the effect on 15- and 16-year-olds. In conclusion, the conceptual goal of protecting young novice drivers while they are gaining experience appears to have been achieved to a significant extent, in particular during the first, critical year after licensure.
Keyword: Young drivers, graduated driver licensing, panel data analysis
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAccidents: Causes, Analysis and Prevention
EditorsHenri Bedard, Geraud Delashmit
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherNova Science Publishers
Publication date2009
ISBN (Print)978-1607417125
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


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