Have Graduated Driver License Programs Reduced Teen Driving Error-Related Fatal Crashes? Local Level Approach to Estimating Safety Effects of GDL Programs

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among teens age 15 to 19 in the U.S. Three stage programs that grant teens increasing driving privileges over time, GDL (graduated driver licensing) systems attempt to strike a compromise between allowing teens to gain the experience needed to attain good driving skills, while limiting teen driving in high risk contexts, such as carrying young passengers and driving at night. Using a panel dataset of teen driver involved fatal vehicle crashes among 16 to 17 year old drivers in commuting zones straddling state borders, I estimate the effect of GDL programs and their components on teen driver and teen driver error related fatal crash rates using a state border policy discontinuity design. Additionally, I analyze the impacts on crash characteristics most likely associated with teen driving mistakes, such as the presence of young occupants, occurring at night, or involving alcohol. The method used takes into account local heterogeneities in factors affecting accident rates, providing more credible identification than previous studies. My findings indicate much larger GDL effects than in the extant literature. I find that the strongest GDL programs, as rated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, reduce teen driving related fatal crash rates by 25 to 34 percent and teen driving error related fatal crash rates by 34 to 45 percent. The most effective components of GDL programs were early nighttime driving curfews beginning between 6pm to 10pm. Passenger restrictions had statistically significant effects only when controlling for the number of licensed teens on the road. For example, the zero to one passenger limit reduced quarterly county-level teen driver involved fatal crash rates per 100,000 by -6.4 points per quarter, relative to a mean rate of 9.5 in state-periods without restrictions. These passenger limits were also highly effective at reducing nighttime crashes among teens, with a reduction in these crash rates of -5.9 per 100,000. Finally, the extended practice period during which newly licensed teens are only allowed to drive under adult supervision were effective in reducing fatal crashes per unit population. However, when controlling for the share of licensed teen drivers, practice periods were only important for nighttime crashes occurring after 9pm.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 44p
  • Monograph Title: TRB 92nd Annual Meeting Compendium of Papers

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01477614
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: 13-3863
  • Files: TRIS, TRB, ATRI
  • Created Date: Feb 5 2013 12:45PM