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Traffic Inj Prev. 2005 Sep;6(3):202-6.

Sixteen-year-old drivers in fatal crashes, United States, 2003.

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Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Arlington, Virginia 22201, USA.



Key features of graduated licensing were introduced in 46 states and the District of Columbia between 1993 and 2003. State evaluations consistently have reported positive overall effects and positive effects of nighttime and passenger restrictions. Sixteen year-olds are the main target of graduated licensing, and the present study investigated changes in their fatal crash involvement and crash characteristics that have taken place nationally during 1993-2003. By looking at 16 year-olds nationally, the study does not constitute a direct test of the effect of graduated licensing laws per se.


Data on fatal crashes were obtained from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Sixteen year-olds were compared with older drivers.


During these years, the extent to which 16-year-old drivers were in fatal crashes decreased substantially compared with older age groups. The drop in the per capita crash rate for 16 year-olds was 26%. The major change was a reduction in crashes involving transporting young passengers, especially in jurisdictions with restrictions that target these crashes. There was no change in the proportion of fatal late-night crashes even in states restricting this activity.


There has been some progress nationally in reducing the crash problem for 16 year-olds, but this still is a big problem. To achieve further progress, the gaps and weaknesses in present graduated licensing laws will need to be addressed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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