Study: License Plate Decals for Teen Drivers Reduce Crash Rates

More than 1,500 teen drivers in New Jersey were spared from crashes since the state implemented a requirement in 2010 that intermediate motorists place an identifying decal sticker on their license plates, according to a recently released study from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

CHOP researchers found that Kyleigh’s Law, which requires new drivers aged 16 to 20 years old to place a reflective decal stick on their front and back license plates, help prevent 1,624 of those drivers from being involved in crashes.

“The number of crashes prevented is equivalent to the number of students attending a large high school,” Dr. Allison Curry, a lead author of the study and a medical director at CHOP, said in a statement. “New Jersey youth and other road users are safer as a result of the decals.”

The law, established in 2010, is the only one of its kind in the U.S. and was meant to assist authorities seeking to enforce graduated driver licensing (GDL) provisions that introduce new motorists to the road with driving restrictions, including limiting the number of passengers and times of day the new driver is allowed on roadways. Better enforcement, in turn, meant fewer crashes for new drivers, according to CHOP.

The study is the world’s first to explore “the effect of the use of decals on crash rates,” according to CHOP, which found in its study that the number of GDL-related citations rose while police-reported crashes fell after Kyleigh’s Law was implemented.

The study found that there was a 14 percent jump in the rate of citations issued to intermediate drivers under GDL provisions, while the rate that the group was involved in police-reported crashes dropped 9 percent.

In addition, the rate of multiple-vehicle crashes fell 8 percent while the rate of crashes with peer passengers dropped 9 percent.

Lawmakers in Kentucky, Michigan, Alaska, Iowa, Minnesota and North Carolina have considered legislation related to teen driver decals, but none has approved such requirements, according to a 2012 report from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association.

GDL ‘Calculator’ Proposes Tough Provisions

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) debuted an “online calculator” this past summer proposing provisions that a prime GDL program would have and calculating the number of car fatalities and collision claims that could be reduced if states adopted such measures.

The optimal provisions in the strongest GDL program would include granting driving permits to 16-year-olds and requiring 65 hours of supervised practice. If implemented across the U.S., such a GDL program would save 500 lives and prevent 9,500 crashes annually U.S., according to the calculator.

New Jersey is one of few states enforcing standards for new drivers that align with multiple GDL provisions from the IIHS’s “best practices.” The Garden State requires a permit age of 16 and licensing age of 17, the latter being a one-of-a-kind requirement in the U.S.

However, the state is behind on other GDL provisions that the IIHS says is optimal for teen drivers, including requiring no practice hours for those drivers, while the institute recommends 65 hours. The state also has a nighttime driving restriction that begins at 11 p.m., while the institute recommends that it begin at 8 p.m.

Adopting all of the insurance institute’s recommendations would produce a 25 percent reduction in fatal crashes and a 19 percent reduction in collision claims, according to the IIHS calculator.

A combination of tough GDL provisions and decal requirements would be the prime antidote for high crash rates of teen drivers, according to the study.

“These fındings suggest that New Jersey’s novel decal law is positively affecting the safety of probationary drivers, even with less-than-ideal driver compliance with GDL restrictions and the decal law itself,” according to the study.

Federal Efforts Focus on Teen Drivers

Parents seeking to obtain cheap auto coverage for their teenager will find that insurance rates are often pricier for that age group because of their lack of driving history and propensity for unsafe driving habits. Insurance providers that risk more covering drivers known to be more hazardous often charge those drivers more. Time will tell if implementation of more safety measures, including stronger GDL provisions and decal laws, can reduce the number of teen crashes and lead to cheaper insurance rates for the age group.

This past summer, President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress finalized legislation that included a grant program issuing funds to states implementing stronger GDL provisions.

In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced last week that it would be funding $550,000 in grants for Connecticut and Massachusetts exploring better enforcement methods to stop texting while driving, a widespread problem for younger drivers.

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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