In comparing the two years prior to the GDL’s passage with data from two years after its implementation, the study titled Continued Evaluation of the Arkansas Graduated Driver License revealed the following:
- Among 14-19-year-olds, crash rates dropped 23.6 percent and the rate of fatal crashes dropped by 57.5 percent.
- Among 16-18-year-old drivers, crash rates dropped 28.5 percent and the rate of fatal crashes dropped by 55.7 percent.
“It is very encouraging that the decrease in fatalities and crashes for this target age group has continued through the 2011 data,” said Dr. Mary Aitken, director of the Injury Prevention Center at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. “While other factors like safer vehicle and road design are likely contributing to this improvement, we know that the provisions of the GDL are a key component to keeping teen drivers safer, because teen drivers are learning to drive under less risky conditions.”
The GDL is a tiered approach designed to minimize distractions and reduce exposure to higher risk driving situations as new drivers gain driving experience. Just a few years ago, if a teenager was 16 years of age, he or she had only to pass a written exam and a short driving test to receive an unrestricted license. Licensed teenagers were free to operate motor vehicles with very little experience or knowledge. Arkansas Code 27-16-804(f) was passed by the Arkansas General Assembly in 2009 with the purpose “to improve the safety of roads and highways in the state by addressing issues related to the licensing of youthful drivers; to amend the law regarding restricted driver’s licenses, learner’s licenses, and intermediate licenses; and for other purposes.”
“Our evaluation clearly shows that this legislation is working to save teen lives,” said Dr. Joe Thompson, director of ACHI and Arkansas’ Surgeon General. “As a parent, I have appreciated the support the law provides. It helps me reinforce to my kids and their friends the need for young drivers to gain experience before they’re given full driving freedom."
These results are positive for all Arkansans, particularly because motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for teenagers between the ages of 14 to 18 from 2000 to 2007 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These trends likely reflect many factors, including the new GDL and other policies, improved awareness of safety measures and other considerations.