Graduated Licensing Can Help

Teenagers perceive a driver’s license as a ticket to freedom.It’s momentous for parents, too. Though they are oftenaware of 16-year-olds’ high crash risks, they’re relieved not to have to chauffeur their children around anymore. But the price is steep. Crashes are the leading cause of death among American teens, accounting for more than one third of all deaths of 16- to 18-year-olds.

An effective way to reduce this toll is to enact graduated licensing, under which driving privileges are phased in to restrict beginners’ initial experience behind the wheel to lower-risk situations. The restrictions gradually are lifted, so teenagers are more experienced and mature when they get their full, unrestricted licenses.

Graduated systems that are well designed restrict night driving, limit teen passengers, set zero alcohol tolerance, and require a specified amount of supervised practice during the initial phase. Graduated licensing laws have reduced teens’ crash rates in the United States, Canada, and New Zealand. But not all States have such laws, and the laws aren’t all strong.