Maryland’s Graduated Driver’s License Law Helps Prevent Teen Fatalities in Car Crashes

Graduated driver licensing laws (GDL) in Maryland contribute to one of the lowest rates of automobile accident fatalities involving teen drivers, according to a recent study. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), working with State Farm Insurance, reviewed data on nationwide traffic accidents involving teenagers between 2009 and 2010. The study defined “teens” as people ages 15 to 19. Maryland has one of the lowest rates of teen-driver-related fatalities in the nation, and the rate has substantially declined in the past five years. Robust GDL laws, in which teen drivers initially receive highly-restricted driver’s licenses and gradually earn additional privileges, show a strong correlation with low rates of fatal automobile accidents involving teen drivers.

CHOP’s report, entitled “Miles to Go,” provides a “yearly snapshot of teen driver safety for the nation.” The study found over 55,000 serious injuries among teens due to car accidents in the period from 2009 to 2010. Thirty percent of those injuries involved head trauma, such as skull fractures or traumatic brain injuries. Head trauma is the leading cause of death for teens in traffic accidents.

A total of 3,413 car crash fatalities involving teen drivers occurred in 2010. Fatalities include teen drivers, passengers of teen drivers, people in other vehicles, and people not in a vehicle (e.g. pedestrians). The report notes that three out of ten teen fatalities in 2010 involved people outside the teen’s vehicle. The total number of fatalities involving teen drivers nationwide declined by over thirty-five percent between 2005 and 2010.

Nationwide, the fatality rate for auto accidents involving teen drivers was 9.5 per 100,000 people. Maryland had the fifth-lowest rate in the country, with 5.8 per 100,000 people. This is a decline of more than forty-eight percent from 2005. The study’s authors credit strong GDL laws in the states with the lowest fatality rates.

Maryland’s GDL law, known as the “Rookie Driver” program, issues a driver’s license to teens in three stages: a learner’s permit, a provisional license, and a full driver’s license. A teen can apply for a learner’s permit at age 15 years and 9 months. A learner’s permit holder can only drive with a person age 21 or older, who has had a full license for at least three years (known as a “qualified supervising driver”), in the front passenger seat with them.

After nine months and completion of a driver’s education course, a teen with a learner’s permit can apply for a provisional license. The teen must complete sixty hours of practice driving with a qualified supervising driver. Anyone under the age of 18 with a provisional license cannot drive between midnight and 5:00 a.m., unless they have an adult age 21 or older or an immediate family member with them.

Once a teen driver has had a provisional license for at least eighteen months, and turns 18 years old, the state will convert the provisional license to a full driver’s license. Violations of any of the GDL laws can result in license suspension or revocation, as well as further restrictions when the driver tries to upgrade the license.

The Maryland accident injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen pursue justice for people injured due to the negligence of others in automobile accidents. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Reduction in Car Accident Fatalities Among 16 Year-Olds Matched by Rise Among 18 Year-Olds, Maryland Accident Law Blog, September 16, 2011
Harford County, Maryland Car Accident Kills 14-Year-old Pylesville Pedestrian, Maryland Accident Law Blog, July 31, 2011
Family Members on Bike Ride Injured in Anne Arundel County Car Crash Because Motorist Allegedly Lost Control of Vehicle, Maryland Accident Law Blog, August 9, 2010
Photo credit: ‘TeenDriverChallenge’ by Lake County Sheriffs Office (Teen Driver Challenge Facebook page)[see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

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