A team of researchers led by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that new drivers licensed before age 18 who are subject to mandatory driver education that includes behind-the-wheel training, in addition to Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) restrictions, are less likely to crash than drivers licensed at age 18 who are exempt from these requirements.
These findings, published in JAMA Network Open, suggest that comprehensive requirements for licensing can keep novice drivers safe. The research was conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Michigan.
For decades, researchers have debated the effectiveness of behind-the-wheel training and whether it reduces young driver crashes as intended. To date, only 15 states have comprehensive licensing requirements that include behind-the-wheel training at a licensed driving school, in addition to other methods like classroom or online instruction, parent-supervised practice driving, and learner permit holding periods. In states with GDL restrictions but no professional behind-the-wheel training requirements, the youngest novice drivers have the highest crash rates.
To determine the potential benefit of behind-the-wheel training, researchers focused on the state of Ohio—a state that requires this training in addition to GDL for drivers licensed before age 18, but not for drivers 18 and older—and used data to determine whether drivers licensed before age 18 were better prepared and less likely to crash than older newly licensed drivers exempt from these requirements.
In this prospective, population-based study, the researchers utilized Ohio licensing data from 2018. They were able to compare data from 136,643 license applicants between the ages of 16 and 24 with tracked licensed driver crash outcome data from up to one year after licensure for 129,897 of those drivers.
“Unlike conventional thinking, this study shows that we should not assume that the youngest new drivers will have the highest crash rates,” says the study’s lead author Elizabeth Walshe, a research scientist at CIRP at CHOP and a former postdoctoral fellow at APPC. “With comprehensive licensing requirements, these younger drivers can perform better than older novice drivers who are exempt from these requirements. All novice drivers need the proper training that leads to developing the critical driving skills needed to avoid crashes.”
Read more at Annenberg Public Policy Center.