How To Reduce Teen Driving Deaths by Half

Apr 3, 2015

Iowa's driver's licensing laws set it apart from most of the country. Teenagers can get learner's permits at fourteen, permits to drive to school after six months of instruction, and fairly unrestricted licenses at sixteen. But that may be putting young Iowans at risk.

Anne McCarte is Senior Vice President for Research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. She says teens' inexperience, coupled with their propensity to take risks, causes a disproportionately high rate of crashes.

"A newly licensed 16-year-old is going to be safer than a newly licensed 15-year-old. Or a 17-year-old is going to be safer than 16-year-old. So even though older teens aren't as comparable to adults in terms of their crash rates, the older the teen the lower the crash rate."

Her new study, "History and Current Status of State Graduated Driver Licensing Laws in the United States," lays out multiple recommendations for stricter standards for young drivers, from an older age requirement for licensing to a limitation on passengers in the vehicle to a higher number of mandated practice driving hours. 

Researchers say that if Iowa implemented the strongest provisions, it could reduce its teen fatal crash rate by 55 percent.

Dan McGehee and Cher Carney of the Transportation and Vehicle Safety Research Program at University of Iowa's Public Policy Center, also join the conversation to share the results of their in-vehicle event recording study on distracted driving. Watch the footage of distracted driving crashes here.