The leading cause of death for teens in the United States is motor vehicle accidents. Teens face the greatest risk of being in an accident during their first year of driving. Those two facts fuel the debate over whether it is a teen’s age or lack of experience that leads to such high accident rates and fatalities.
The Harsh Reality
Your Denver accident attorney presents some startling statistics. In 2009, more than 5,600 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents involving drivers age 15—20. In fact, 15—20-year-olds have the highest fatality rate of all age groups. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 63 percent of teen passenger deaths in 2008 occurred in vehicles driven by another teen. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration data shows that young drivers account for only 6 percent of total drivers in the country, but constitute approximately 12 percent of all fatal crashes.
With statistics like those above, you may be surprised to find out that New Jersey is the only state that has raised the minimum legal driving age, but they only raised it to 17. Many states have introduced legislation to raise the age, but none of the proposals passed. A recent online poll that asked the question, “Should the minimum legal driving age be raised to 18?” sheds more light on the subject. Of the online respondents, 39 percent replied, “yes” and 61 percent said, “no.” Presumably, the public–and their elected representatives–is not in favor of delaying licensure.
The Graduated Driver Licensing Program
Many states have attempted to address the risk to teens by adopting Graduated Driver Licensing programs, or GDLs. By separating the attainment of a driver’s license into distinct phases, a new driver is given the education and experience needed before driving on the road alone.
For instance, Colorado’s GDL starts with the driver being at least 15 years old and obtaining an instruction permit. There are different types of instruction permits, but what they all have in common is that the new driver can only drive with a parent or guardian. No cell phone use is allowed while driving. In the second phase of Colorado’s GDL, a driver can obtain what is known as a restricted license. This license is as it sounds: it carries certain restrictions regarding the hours the operator may drive, the age of the passengers in the car and it makes the seatbelt law a primary offense (meaning an officer can stop the car for that offense alone).
Only when a driver is 18 and has successfully driven with the restricted license can he or she obtain a full, unrestricted license in Colorado, thus completing the last stage of the GDL. Your Denver accident attorney points out that although the licensure process may begin at 15, an unrestricted license cannot be obtained until age 18. What was not achievable through outright legislation has been achieved through the GDL: protecting teens while giving them driving experience.
For more information on teen driving, Colorado’s GDL program or if you have been involved in an accident with a teen driver, contact Jordan Levine of Levine Law today.