Insurance and safety advocates said Tuesday that nationwide restrictions on teenage driver's licenses could save 2,000 lives and billions of dollars each year.
In a report released Tuesday, the National Safety Council, a congressionally chartered independent research agency, asked what would happen if a variety of laws known generally as "graduated driver licensing," or GDL, were fully adopted in all 50 states.
Besides saving about 2,000 lives, universal adoption would also save more than $13 billion a year, said the report, which was funded by the Allstate Foundation, charitable and research group supported by insurance giant Allstate Corp.
GDL laws include more than just legislating that teenagers can't get driver's licenses until they're 18. They also encompass bans on texting and other cellphone use while driving, restrictions on nighttime driving by 16- and 17-year-olds and limits on the number of passengers in a car driven by a teen. They're currently a patchwork, with some states' having adopted most restrictions and others' having adopted as few as one, said John Ulczycki, the safety council's group vice president for research.
Projections on death were derived from baseline data published in a 2007 report (.pdf) examining GDL laws by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, and "what we know from (that) study is that when a state passes a GDL with one component, it gets a 4 percent reduction in deaths," Ulczycki told msnbc.com.
More on graduated driver licensing:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has compiled all 50 state GDL laws
- The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety maintains a list of frequently asked questions about GDL laws
- Full National Safety Council report (.pdf)
Ulczycki acknowledged that the 2007 AAA report used data that went back as far as 1994, but he said that because the safety council was looking simply at lives saved year over year, "the total number of lives saved each year" was statistically sound.
For the cost savings, the safety council used its own annual data on crashes involving teenage drivers, compiling reports on medical expenses, wage and insurance losses, police and ambulance costs, vehicle damage and costs to employers for lost productivity. The report's projections were compared to costs from 2009, when the safety council calculated that teen crashes cost the U.S. $38.3 billion annually.
Ulczycki said the council asked what the cost savings would be, based on the 2009 data, if all 50 states were to enact comprehensive GDL legislation. The answer: $13.6 billion a year.
That's a relatively recent date, meaning the council's projections for the future are unlikely to be significantly affected by the impact of inflation. That point is important because Congress is moving closer to taking up legislation to reauthorize federal highway spending. The highway bill often includes new federal roadway safety mandates — which the safety council heavily emphasized in announcing the report Tuesday.
Federal traffic safety data indicate that crashes involving teenage drivers are the No. 1 killer of teenagers in the U.S. Overall, more than 81,000 people died in crashes involving drivers ages 15 to 20 from 2000 to 2009.
Vicky Dinges, vice president of public social responsibility for Allstate, which funded the report, called teen driving deaths a real public health crisis."
"What's worse is that these deaths are avoidable," she said.
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