Teen drivers are more likely to get into car accidents, particularly fatal car accidents, than older drivers. It is only natural that the least experienced drivers would make the most mistakes. That said, there are many methods of helping teens learn the skills they need while reducing their odds of crashing. Teen driver safety can be improved by careful analysis of which programs are effective and which should be reconsidered.
One of the methods that has gained traction in a number of states is the use of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs. These programs differ in a number of ways, but the general idea is to restrict teen drivers in ways that protect them from dangerous situations. Recent research analyzed the effectiveness of one aspect of some GDL systems, the use of decals to help law enforcement and other drivers identify GDL participants.
New Jersey was the first state to implement mandatory GDL decals for drivers under the age of 21. That change was implemented in 2010. A 2015 study looked at crash rates among New Jersey drivers in the intermediate stage of the GDL program. These drivers had progressed beyond the requirement of driving with an adult present, but still faced restrictions based on their age. Among this group, accident rates dropped following the new decal provision.
The decal provision had the unsurprising effect of increasing the number of traffic citations issued to drivers who violated the GDL guidelines. Citations rose 14 percent in the year after the rule took effect. One of the challenges of GDL rules is that law enforcement has a difficult time telling that a driver is driving past curfew or is carrying too many passengers for his or her license. Things adult drivers can do, teen drivers cannot. The decals give police a vital piece of information they can use in enforcing restrictions.
The data collected so far seems to indicate that decals have a positive impact on improving teen driver safety. Other states should take notice and determine if GDL decals can help them make the roads safer for teens and the people who share the road with them.
Source: Journalist’s Resource, “Teen drivers: Changes in crash rates after requiring Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) decals,” by Lauren Leatherby, 25 January 2016