Insurance Institute wants uniformity among states’ driving rules

Massachusetts is one of a handful of states getting praise from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. IIHS says the state’s minimum driving permit age of 16 is ideal, compared to some states where children as young as 14 can be fully licensed to drive.

IIHS reported that overall death rate among teens in car accidents plummeted in the last decade and a half. The institute believes state-imposed graduated driver’s license programs are the reason that 68 percent fewer 16-year-old drivers died in 2010 than in 1996. IIHS thinks consistency among state driving laws could reduce fatalities even more.

Most states require new drivers to take part in graduated programs that slowly increase driving privileges as teenagers gain experience and get more comfortable behind the wheel. Graduated programs for licenses frequently require drivers to pass through three stages, starting with a learner’s permit and ending with full driving rights.

Depending on individual state laws, permit holders and intermediate licensees are restricted from driving at night or with passengers who are not adults. Some states allow a single young passenger to accompany a teen driver. New drivers pass from one stage to the next after a set time or by acquiring a certain number of hours of road experience. A teen becomes a fully licensed driver when all requirements are met.

The institute named Massachusetts among other states that do not allow early driving permits. It compared states with strict limits on driving age to two mostly-rural states in the Midwest, where teens can get behind the wheel by age 14.

IIHS believes as many as 500 young lives could be saved each year if all states adopted the same teenage driving rules using graduated licensing programs. IIHS says consistency among driving laws, with graduated licensing available for drivers no younger than 15, would prevent around 9,500 teen car accidents annually.

Source: USA TODAY, “Is it time to ban driver’s licenses for 14-year-olds?” June 4, 2012