‘Late learners’ bypass law, but skip skill-building

teen driver“Teenagers waiting longer to drive.” That’s been a recurring topic in this blog.

The reasons commonly cited are teenagers’ increasing reliance on social media – rather than driving – to connect with their peers, plus economic hardship caused by the Great Recession.

An Oct. 16 Kansas City Star overview of that issue raises an additional concern: late learners are bypassing driver’s education.

In Washington and Oregon, graduated licensing laws require 50 hours of supervised driving practice before teenagers can get a license at age 16 or 17. But those who wait until they’re 18 can bypass graduated licensing altogether. 

That worries the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which counts on graduated licensing to build skills and help teen drivers make smart choices to avoid injury.

“A serious number of people are getting licensed outside what has become a very, very effective law,” said a Foundation spokesperson.

Washington’s law took effect July 1, 2001, and by 2007 fatal crashes for the state’s teen drivers dropped 50%.

In Oregon, just one year after its law took effect, crash rates for 16- and 17-year-old male drivers dropped 16%.

New Jersey makes all drivers under age 21 subject to its graduated licensing law, giving older teens no option if they want to drive. The AAA Foundation’s study suggests other states might do well by following New Jersey’s lead. Read the Kansas City Star article.

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