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A new study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that laws placing restrictions on teenage drivers and requiring them to "graduate" from an intermediate license to a full license only cut fatal crashes in the youngest drivers.

The analysis of national crash data showed that between 1986 and 2007, the rate of fatal accidents involving 16-year-old drivers was 26 percent lower in states that prohibited teens from driving at night and carrying certain passengers than in states lacking such restrictions.

Summarizing other findings, CNN reported, “Among 18-year-olds, however, strong graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs were associated with a 12 percent increase in the fatal crash rate, which effectively cancelled out the benefits among younger drivers.”

Virginia (VA) drivers can obtain a learner’s permit at the age of 15 years and 6 months. This permit allows teens to operate motor vehicles when a licensed driver at least 21 years of age is seated beside them That person may be 18-years in the case of a legal guardian, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, step-brother or step-sister, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Virginia’s curfew laws prohibit a driver under the age of 18 who is the holder of a learner’s permit or driver’s license from driving between midnight and 4 am. Drivers under the age of 18 are allowed to carry only one passenger under the age of 18 during the first year they hold a driver’s license.

As experienced Virginia accident injury attorneys who work with victims of many crashes involving teenagers, my colleagues and I are heartened by knowing licensing restrictions seem to be protecting the youngest drivers, but we’re also disappointed by the overall results of the study.

Since the teenager programs were established in 1996, there have been 1,348 fewer fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers. Unfortunately, there have been and 1,086 more involving 18-year-olds, the study found.

What isn’t in dispute is the need to address the high rate of accidents involving teenagers. Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. They account for more than one in three deaths in this age group.

We see far too many teens losing their lives in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth and surrounding Virginia cities and further afield. In fact, teenage car crashes are 10 times more likely to occur than from those involving middle-aged drivers.

To learn more, see this FAQ from a parent whose teenage son was injured in a car accident in Chesapeake, VA.


About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.

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