Study Recommends Ending Driver Education

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Eliminating high-school driver education, raising the age at which teenagers may drive and buy liquor, and restricting the hours in which they may drive, are the options for reducing auto accidents involving young people suggested in a new report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The 11-page report, Teens and Autos: A Deadly Combination, is a compilation of studies by the institute, an independent, non-profit organization associated with the insurance industry. It cites the injuries associated with motor-vehicle use as the major public-health problem for teenagers in the United States and recommends changes in policy for the use of automobiles by teenagers.

In 1978, 4,198 persons were killed in automobile accidents involving 16-and 17-year-olds, according to the report. Of those deaths, 1,344 were teenage drivers and 1,307 were passengers in automobiles driven by a teenager.

'A Costly Burden'

"Deaths and injuries inflicted on any segment of the population in motor-vehicle crashes constitute a costly burden in pain and suffering and in economic terms," the report asserts. "When a disproportionate share of those costs can be identified as being caused by a particular group of drivers and passengers, it is especially important to examine6public policies and countermeasures available." The report also reveals these statistics:

Nearly half of all deaths of 16-to 19-year-olds are the result of motor-vehicle collisions.

Automobile accidents involving 18-year-old drivers result in more traffic fatalities than any other age. More than 60 percent of the deaths of 16- and 17-year-olds, about one-third of the deaths of 15-year-olds, and one quarter of the deaths of 14-year-olds, resulted from automobile accidents in which 16- and 17-year-olds were driving.

When high-school driver education was eliminated from some school districts in Connecticut, there was a 57 percent net reduction in licensure of 16- and 17-year-olds from the level that could have been expected if driver education had remained available. The reduction of automobile collisions for the age group corresponded with the reduction in licenses issued.

Evidence from Canada indicates that even under a mandatory belt-use law, teenage drivers--the age group most at risk--are least likely to use seat belts and are least affected by laws requiring their use.

When teenagers drive, they not only have a very high fatality rate themselves, but also contribute substantially to the deaths of others.

More than half of the 16- to 19-year-old passengers and drivers who sustained fatal injuries did so in accidents between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. the following day.

Teenage males are much more likely to be involved in fatal collisions when driving than females are.

Fatal automobile accidents of younger drivers were more likely to involve only the vehicle they were driving than were the accidents of older drivers.

In its report, the institute suggests that raising the minimum age for legal driving "would be an effective policy" although it would not eliminate all of the fatalities that result annually from the driving of teenagers.

High-school driver education, according to the report, has been found to increase substantially the numbers of 16- and 17-year-olds with a driver's license, without reducing the number of accidents among teenagers--therefore, it should be eliminated, the report argues.

Fatal Crashes Reduced

"States that have raised their legal minimum drinking age in recent years have had a substantial reduction in nighttime fatal crashes," the institute's researchers write. "Any single state that raises its drinking age can expect the involvement in nighttime fatal crashes of the age group to which the change in the law applies to drop by about 28 percent." Prohibiting teenagers from driving betweeen the hours 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. on some evenings would also help avert fatalities, the report says, "if such a provision could be effectively enforced."

Vol. 01, Issue 07

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