Do Tougher Teen Driving Laws Mean Safer Roads?

Car accidents are the number one cause of death among teenagers. It is likely no surprise, then that, teenage drivers aged 16 to 19 have a crash rate four times that of older drivers – and that almost two-third of teen deaths in traffic accidents occur when teens are passengers in a car being driven by another teen.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, a teenage driver’s risk of a car accident actually increases by 44 percent when there is a teenage passenger in the car. And the risk more than quadruples when there are three or more teens riding in the car.

Safety studies done by organizations like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have shown that stricter licensing laws, like graduated driver’s licensing programs, have reduced fatal traffic accidents among teenage drivers.

In Texas, the graduated driver’s license program was first created in 2002. It has two main phases.

Under phase one, all drivers under the age of 18 must have a learner license for at least six months – and must remain valid. During this time, the teen driver can only drive with a person who is at least 21 years of age. After a minor completes the classroom and behind the wheel portions of driver’s ed, along with holding a valid learner’s permit for at least six months, then he or she graduates to phase two and can take the driving test.

Phase two basically restricts a driver’s privileges for the first 12 months that he or she is first licensed. During this time, the teen driver has a provisional license which means that he or she cannot drive with more than one non-family member passenger under the age of 21 (i.e., other teenage friends). The teen driver can also not drive between midnight and 5:00 am without a parent unless it is to or from work, school or a medical emergency. Teen drivers in Texas are also not allowed to use cell phones while driving.

Only after the teen driver has successfully completed all of these requirements can he or she drive without restrictions. Licensing programs similar to this exist in almost all states, and as studies have shown, are actually help saving lives.

But the question is, are they enough? Should they be stricter? Or should a federal requirement exist that would make these requirements the same in all 50 states? What do you think?