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Laws vary widely on teen drivers licensing

It is widely acknowledge that teenage drivers are the most at risk for a car crash and for traffic fatalities. Car accidents are the leading cause of death among teens in the United States, and the first year that they have a driver's license is one of the most dangerous parts of their lives.

Safety regulators and state lawmakers have struggled to find the right combination of education and restrictions to help lower teen car crash rates and reduce the number of deaths happening on our roads and highways. To date, one of the most effective ways to reduce teen driver car accidents has been through graduated licensing laws.

Graduated licensing laws work by giving teen drivers small increases in driving privileges over the course of several years before they have free reign on the open road. The laws generally restrict night time driving, require a certain number of hours of practice, and restrict non-family passengers for teen drivers, among other things.

The method has proven effective at decreasing traffic fatalities involving teen drivers since it was first introduced in the 1996. However, there is not national standard for graduated licensing systems and no requirement that states use them.

In the absence of a national standard, state laws governing teen driver's licenses vary widely. Some states allow teens to bypass graduated licensing systems if they take a class, which safety experts say is counterproductive. Some states don't require driver's education classes at all, even though studies have shown that kids who take classes are much safer on the road than those who don't.

Source: New York Times, "The Mixed Bag of Driver Education" Tanya Mohn, June 22, 2012.

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