Graduated licensing programs for teens appear to save lives

Fatal car accidents take the lives of far too many Massachusetts teenagers each year. It seems evident that when teens first get their driver’s licenses, their inexperience makes them a danger on the roads. When that inexperience is paired with distractions or impairment, the result is a high rate of vehicle accidents.

Some states, including Massachusetts, have addressed this problem by creating strict rules for teenage drivers, known as “graduated licensing” programs. According to a recent report on CBS’s The Early Show, graduated licensing programs have proven effective in the states that have adopted them.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that states that put limits on teen drivers had a 26 percent lower rate of fatal crashes for 16-year-old drivers. With more than 37,000 teens killed in car accident over the past decade alone, these programs could save thousands of young lives, The Early Show reported.

A spokeswoman for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety said that every effective graduated license program has three essential components: restricting the number of passengers teens can carry, limiting nighttime driving for teens and banning cell phone use.

Reportedly, safety advocates are currently pressing Congress to create a federal graduated licensing program that would apply to teen drivers across the country. Currently, the graduated licensing programs are implemented on a state by state basis.

Massachusetts has a version of the graduated driver’s license system that applies to drivers under the age of 18 known as the Junior Operator License (JOL). The program has the young driver go through a number of stages with requirements and restrictions, rather than granting full driver’s license privileges at age 16.

What do you think? Has the JOL program in Massachusetts been affective?

Source: CBS News, “Restrictions on young teen drivers working: study,” Sept. 14, 2011.