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Study finds more teen drivers inadequately prepared for licensure

Ohio has a graduated drivers’ licensing (GDL) program for young novice drivers that fully implements the highly endorsed recommendations of traffic safety regulators across the country, including the national AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. At its core, the program mandates driver learning through progressive stages -- in Ohio, marked learner, intermediate and full privilege -- focused heavily on minimum practice periods and requirements. Only after a young motorist has passed through all learning phases will he or she be qualified to test for and receive a driver’s license.

As stated, AAA applauds that approach, but organizational officials are now expressing open concerns that the program as applied across the country is being grossly underutilized, with repercussions that spell an uptick in teen-related car accidents and injuries.

Researchers from AAA just concluded a national sampling of more than 1,000 drivers aged 18-20 and are openly dismayed by the results.

What most disturbs them is seeing the falling numbers of teens who are actively participating in GDL programs. One stark statistic denotes that the number is down by more than 13 percent over the past two decades, from more than two-thirds to just over half, respectively.

The survey results indicate a variety of reasons for the lesser immersion in GDL programs over time. Some teens don’t own or otherwise have access to a vehicle. For many, gas and other expenditures associated with driving are simply too expensive.

Regardless of the reasons, AAA officials are disconcerted, given their strong view -- buttressed by hard evidence -- that GDL programs have had a discernible safety-enhancing effect on teen motorists. Not participating in them, and simply waiting until a later age to take a driving test without the preparatory work provided through GDL immersion, is a dangerous proposition, say safety experts.

As for the AAA, it wants lawmakers and safety advocates to look hard at the organization’s findings and see whether GDL programs “can be modified to improve safety for these young adult novice drivers.”

Source: AAA, "Teens delaying licensure -- a cause for concern?" Nancy White, Aug. 1, 2013

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