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New Jersey's Teen Driving Restrictions Paying Dividends

If some New Jersey parents feel that they have been hearing excessive grumbling from their teenage drivers over the past several years concerning what they view as onerous restrictions on their ability to drive, they can now respond with statistics from a recent CDC study on fatal accidents involving teenage drivers across the country. The bottom line: Yes, New Jersey treats its teen drivers comparatively tough, and the result of that is the lowest traffic fatality rate among teenagers in the United States (tied with New York).

The CDC study notes that deadly car accidents involving teens are down generally across the country over the past five years, and it posits several reasons why. Safer cars are obviously having a salutary effect - more airbags, better crash results - as are highway engineering improvements geared toward safety.

That is secondary, though, say traffic safety experts. What they uniformly point to are more stringent requirements and restrictions being placed on teens at the state level. Says Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: "It's not that teenagers are becoming safer, it's that state laws enacted in the last 15 years are taking teens out of the most hazardous driving conditions."

Rader is referring to night driving, driving while talking or texting, driving with other teens in the car, and so forth. Controlling these is what is having the most impact. Graduated driver's licensing programs that address these factors are having strong effect.

Especially in states like New Jersey and New York. New Jersey, unlike most other states, bars kids from driving until they are 17. The result is 10 deaths per 100,000 teen drivers. Conversely, Wyoming - a state with far fewer driving restrictions on teens - has 60 fatalities for the same number of drivers.

Dr. Grant Baldwin of the CDC sums it up: "Proven measures, including graduating driver's licensing and parental involvement," he says, "can reduce the toll of deaths and injuries among teen drivers and protect the lives of others who share the road with these new drivers."

Related Resource: "Research Sees Decline in Fatal Teen Car Crashes" October 22, 2010

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