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Allstate and NSC: Indiana Could Benefit from Stricter GDL Laws

Indiana officials could prevent as many as 49 roadway and deaths and save an estimated $300 million a year by tightening the state’s restrictions on teenage drivers, according to a new report from the National Safety Council (NSC) and the Allstate Foundation.

According to the report, 128 people were killed in vehicle crashes involving teen drivers in 2009. Officials with the council and foundation say implementation of tougher graduated driver licensing (GDL) standards could reduce those deaths significantly.

The Hoosier State already has a three-stage GDL system that restricts when and with whom teens may drive, requires at least 50 hours of supervised driving by those with learner permits and delays full driving privileges until age 18, among other provisions.

But the report’s authors say even tougher rules—including a minimum age of 16 for learner permits—would have a larger impact.

The current minimum age is 15.5 years old.

Indiana Crash Statistics for Young Drivers Have Improved

According to the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI), 16- and 17-year-old drivers had the highest crash rate of all age groups in 2010.

That demographic had one crash for about every 10 drivers that year. Drivers in aged 25 to 34 had a rate of about one crash for every 17 drivers, and motorists aged 45 to 54 had an even lower rate–about one crash for every 21 drivers.

But the state is seeing positive trends in the rate of crashes that involve teen drivers and result in fatalities.

Data from the ICJI show fatal crashes involving 16- and 17-year-old drivers have fallen approximately 63 percent since 2004. The ICJI attributes that development to changes that have already been made to the state’s licensing procedures.

Allstate Projects Standardized GDL Could Save Thousands of Lives

According to the report, uniform adoption of the strictest GDL laws by all states could save more than 2,000 lives and as much as $13.6 billion a year in economic costs.

Those projections are based on a report issued last month by the AAA Foundation that put the cost of each crash-related fatality nationwide at about $6 million and the cost of accident injuries at $126,000 each. Those figures were calculated by assigning monetary value to factors including medical and emergency services, lost earnings and property damage.

Report Contributes to Debate over STANDUP Act

The Foundation and the NSC are among a long list of organizations calling on federal legislators to pass the Safe Teen And Novice Driver Protection, or STANDUP, Act. The legislation would establish minimum standards for state GDL systems and require that states meet those standards in order to qualify for millions of dollars in federal highway and infrastructure funding.

The bill would authorize $22 million annually for two years to train state officials, publish materials about new GDL laws and carry out traffic-safety programs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times as likely as their older counterparts to be involved in a crash. The CDC says 1 in 3 teen deaths are attributed to auto accidents, making crashes the leading cause of death for that age group.

Safety officials say that a combination of immaturity and inexperience make young people a danger in the driver’s seat. And teens’ greater propensity to crash has financial implications even for those lucky enough to avoid causing harm, with Indiana auto insurance and coverage in other states often extremely expensive for families with teens on their vehicle policies.

Safety experts say that, by putting off full licensure until teens get more experience behind the wheel under less risky conditions, GDL programs greatly reduce those risks. The CDC has found that states with the most comprehensive GDL systems have seen reductions of 38 percent in fatal crashes and 40 percent in nonfatal accidents among 16-year-old drivers.

GDL programs exist in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but the requirements vary widely between states.

According to the results of a survey released earlier this year by AAA, 60 percent of Americans support uniform state restrictions on teen drivers.

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