Phased licensing program brings positive results
A study shows restrictions on 16-year-old drivers from carrying passengers and driving at night has significantly reduced fatalities.
THE effectiveness of a new Hawaii law phasing in driving privileges for young people has been affirmed by a national study of states with and without such restrictions. Parents continue to play a major role in ensuring the same reduction in traffic fatalities of teenagers in Hawaii as that achieved on the mainland.
Sixteen-year-old drivers are 10 times more likely to be involved in traffic accidents than drivers ages 30 to 59, and twice the rate of 18- and 19-year-olds. A new study has found that the rate of 16-year-old drivers involved in fatal accidents was 20 percent lower in states with comprehensive graduated licensing of drivers than in states without such laws.
Hawaii's 2005 Legislature enacted the measure and it went into effect on Jan. 9 of this year. It allows a person to get an instructional driver's license at age 15 1/2 and drive with a licensed driver in the front passenger seat. He or she can qualify for a provisional license six months later with various restrictions, having taken a driver education program, and can be fully licensed at age 17.
A novice driver with a provisional license cannot have more than one other minor in the vehicle without the presence of a parent or guardian. He or she cannot drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. without a supervising adult except with written permission of a parent or guardian.
Forty other states had preceded Hawaii in enacting such legislation. The study, conducted by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, focused on 36 states that had such programs and seven lacking them from 1994 through 2004.
The recommended graduated program has seven components: minimum age for learner permit, waiting period before applying for an intermediate license, minimum hours of supervised driving, minimum age for intermediate license, nighttime restrictions, passenger restrictions and minimum age for full license. Hawaii has all seven ingredients.
Individual states with graduated programs experienced accident reductions ranging from 11 percent to 32 percent. Programs with at least five of the components had lower fatality rates, according to the study.
Some restrictions are easily enforced. For example, the waiting period for a provisional license "is virtually always enforced, because it is an integral part of how the licensing system functions," the study found.
Other parts, such as certified supervised driving, "will largely depend on the willingness and ability of parents to supervise," it says. "A night driving restriction is far easier for parents to enforce than a passenger restriction."