State Sees Drop in Teen Crash Rate After Introducing GDL System

The Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) says auto crashes involving teenagers behind the wheel have dropped significantly since the state tightened restrictions on teen drivers three years ago.

A new report from the state DMV shows a 20 percent decrease between 2007 and 2009 in collisions in which 16- and 17-year-old motorists were at fault or a contributing factor. The beginning of that period was when tough graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws took effect in the state, imposing earlier curfews, stiffer penalties for violations and beefed-up training requirements.

Connecticut Teenage Crashes“These numbers demonstrate improvement we like to see, but there’s always more work to do in this area of educating teens about safe driving,” DMV Commissioner Melody A. Currey said in a statement.

Connecticut leaders stepped up regulation of teenage motorists after 15 people died as a result of teen crashes in 2007. Legislation that took effect the following year lengthened passenger restrictions and installed an 11 p.m. curfew for young drivers, among other changes.

Nine fatal crashes involved motorists age 16 or 17 in 2010, according to the DMV report. That was up from six the previous year, but fewer than the 13 reported in 2008, and corresponded with a statewide increase in crashes among all age groups.

Total crashes in which teens caused or contributed to the accident fell from more than 5,600 in 2007 to about 4,500 in 2009, according to statistics from state transportation officials.

Connecticut is one of many states nationwide to have wrestled with teen driving and its associated risks.

Motorists from 16 to 19 are four times as likely as their older counterparts to get into a crash, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Auto accidents account for 1 in 3 teen deaths nationwide, making them the leading cause of death for that age group.

Teen crashes also rack up billions of dollars in economic costs annually, according to the CDC, a fact that has resulted in teenagers being labeled high-risk drivers for insurance purposes and has made finding low-priced coverage from even the best car insurance company a challenge for teens and their families.

GDL programs nationwide include three phases that young drivers must pass through in order to be granted full driving privileges, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Those phases include a supervised learner’s period, an intermediate license that limits unsupervised driving and a full license after the first two stages are completed.

Connecticut’s decrease in teen accidents and deaths may be explained at least in part by the fact that fewer teens there are getting driver’s licenses.

About 28,000 drivers age 16 and 17 were licensed in 2010, compared to more than 33,150 in 2008, according to the report, which suggests that driving is losing some of its social status among teens.

The DMV also reports that convictions for illegal cell phone use, failure to use a seat belt, speeding and driving have all dropped dramatically over the past three years.

About Gregor McGavin
Gregor McGavin is an award-winning journalist who has reported across the country for such publications as The Associated Press, the Arizona Republic, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Press-Enterprise.

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