IIHS Unveils State-by-State Teen Driver Safety Calculator

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) recently launched an online “calculator” that assesses a state’s graduated driver licensing program (GDL) and how changes could affect teen drivers’ crash and fatality rates, giving motorists a view into how their state’s teen driving laws compare with others and how stronger GDL provisions could make roads safer.

All states have GDL programs that gradually introduce new motorists to driving in three stages: getting a learner’s permit, having a restricted license after passing a driving test, then moving on to an unrestricted license. But each state’s GDL provisions are different, applying different levels of restrictions at each stage.

The calculator uses five indicators in assessing a GDL program: permit age, practice driving hours, license age, and night driving and teen passenger restrictions.

According to the Institutes, the prime GDL program would have a minimum permit age of 16, a minimum intermediate license age of 17, at least 65 hours of supervised driving, prohibit nighttime driving after 8 p.m. for intermediate drivers and ban all teen passengers.

“Teens with learner permits should get lots of supervised driving practice, and once they have intermediate licenses they should be subject to limits on night driving and teen passengers,” the Institutes said in a statement. “The longer the restrictions last the better.”

The five-component calculator allows users to calculate the impact of looser or stronger laws on their state’s rates of collision claims for 16- to 17-year-olds and fatal crashes of 15- to 17-year-olds.

State restrictions on when teenagers can drive and how many passengers they can have in the car have the strongest impact on those rates, followed by raising minimum permit and licensing ages. The previous rating system used now-defunct indicators of teen driver safety like longer learner permit holding periods that “don’t show independent benefits in the new analysis,” according to the Institutes.

States began adopting GDL laws more than a decade ago, with all but nine states implementing such provisions by December 2000, according to the IIHS. The new calculator was based on a 2009 evaluation of GDL impact on teen drivers’ fatal collisions and claims.

HLDI and IIHS “now know more about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to keeping young drivers safe,” the Institutes said in a statement. “Based on more than a decade of data, researchers are able to estimate the effects of changing individual provisions of GDL.”

Motorists will find that even the best rated car insurance companies charge young drivers higher insurance premiums because they are known as an age group at risk for more collisions and crashes. Federal research shows that traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S., who are involved in three times as many fatal collisions as all other age groups.

About Ben Zitney
Benjamin Zitney has been covering the auto insurance industry for the past 2.5 years. Before coming to Online Auto Insurance News, he produced an extensive company history of the 30-year-old California Joint Powers Insurance Authority and worked at the Cal State Long Beach Daily Forty-Niner as a reporter, copy editor and news editor.

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