Auto Club: Teen Licensing Law Enhancement Shown To Reduce Young Driver Crashes

(LOS ANGELES, Oct. 20, 2008) - An analysis of California's 2006 strengthened teen driver licensing law shows that it has been effective in reducing fatal and injury collisions for novice drivers. The law, AB1474, requires that young drivers cease driving at 11 p.m., one hour earlier than required in the original Brady Jared Teen Driver Safety Act that took effect in 1998.
As part of National Teen Driver Safety Week and to mark the 10th anniversary this year of California's graduated driver license law for teen drivers, the Automobile Club of Southern California analysis of statewide data shared today at James Monroe High School in North Hills reveals a significant decline in deaths and injuries among teens following enactment of the enhanced nighttime driving provision. The Auto Club's review of AB1474, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2006, examined fatal and injury crashes where novice 16-year-old drivers were at-fault. During 11 p.m. to midnight, these crashes fell 34% in 2006 and 2007 (combined) compared to the two previous years. In Los Angeles County, from 11 p.m. to midnight, these crashes fell even more - nearly 50%.
In 2004 and 2005, California had an average of 81.5 at-fault fatal and injury crashes among 16-year-olds from 11 p.m. to midnight. This number fell to an average of 54 in 2006 and 2007.
"The analysis confirms that the enhanced provision of the law has been effective in reducing deaths and injuries on our roadways. These crash reductions add to the significant effects we observed after the original teen driver law took effect in 1998," said Steven A. Bloch, Ph.D., the Auto Club's senior researcher.
"It appears that teens and their families are complying with the enhanced licensing requirement despite the fact that enforcement of the law is 'secondary.' That means officers may not stop a new driver to check for compliance with the teen driver law, but must pull over motorists for another driving infraction before citing them," Bloch said.
In 1997, the Auto Club sponsored California's teen driver law. Its purpose was to reduce the number of teen deaths and injuries in car crashes, and it worked: In the two years following the law's 1998 implementation, at-fault crashes involving 16-year-old drivers dropped 24 percent, and the number of teen-passenger deaths and injuries from crashes involving 16-year-old drivers declined 40 percent.
In 2007, 126 teens ages 16 and 17 were killed and 11,358 injured statewide in motor vehicle crashes.
For more information about state's teen driver law and the enhanced nighttime provision, the Auto Club offers a Graduated Driver License law brochure in English and Spanish free of charge at its local offices.