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.
Continue reading ›