In an effort to keep 16-and 17-year-old teen drivers from being hurt or killed in a car accident, California and many other states have imposed severe restrictions on them. The restrictions specify when they can drive and who they can have riding with them.

While crash data indicates that fatal accidents involving younger teen drivers have declined, the number of deadly crashes involving 18-and 19-year-old drivers has gone up.

One expert labels the study that was conducted by the American Medical Association as compelling and that further examination of the unintended consequences of the law is needed.

Teens are more likely to be involved in car crashes because of a combination of inexperience behind the wheel and immature behavior. Graduated driver licensing programs keep young drivers from higher-risk driving situations such as night driving and transporting passengers until they are more experienced behind the wheel.

The first of the graduated driver licensing programs was implemented in Florida in 1996. After that, all 50 states have followed suit with their own versions of the program.

Restrictions vary by state, but include a minimum age at which a teen can obtain a learner’s permit. Then they have to drive for an amount of time in the company of an adult. After that, there are a number of additional restrictions for teen drivers up to the first year of unsupervised trips behind the wheel.

Research figures show that there were 1,438 fewer fatal car crashes involving 16-year-old drivers. That number was offset some by an increase of 1,086 fatal crashes in the 18-year-old age group.

No one is quite sure why the graduated driving programs have caused older teen drivers to be involved in fatal accidents. It may be too early to label graduated driving programs a failure.

Source: Los Angeles Times “Teen driver restrictions a mixed bag,” Shari Roan, Sept. 13, 2011