Timing of Driver’s License Acquisition and Reasons for Delay Among Young People in the United States
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children, teenagers, and young adults in the United States (Subramanian, 2012). Graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems, first introduced in the United States in 1996, are designed to protect young novice drivers by restricting exposure to risk initially and then gradually phasing in increased privileges as the driver gains experience (Williams, Tefft, & Grabowski, 2012). While
numerous studies have found that strong GDL programs are associated with lower fatal crash involvement rates for 16- and 17-year-olds (Zhu et al., 2012), results of the few studies investigating the effects of GDL on older teens have been mixed. Some researchers have hypothesized that because most states’ GDL requirements and restrictions only apply to new drivers younger than 18, some young people might wait until they turn 18 to apply for a license, to avoid the requirements and restrictions associated with GDL. In this scenario, new drivers who delayed licensure until age 18 to avoid GDL would have less driving experience and thus higher crash risk than they would have had at the same age without GDL (Masten, Foss, & Marshall, 2011).