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October 13, 2016

CHOP study looks at how many of New Jersey's young drivers follow GDL restrictions

The vast majority of teen drivers with probationary licenses in New Jersey are following state limits on passenger and nighttime driving, according to a new study by the The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The research shows that more than 91 percent of trips taken by young drivers follow the state's Graduated Driver Licensing restriction on riding with no more than one passenger and nearly 97 percent complied with the restriction on driving between 11:01 p.m. and 5 a.m. The study was published Thursday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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In a GDL program, young drivers gradually gain more freedom as they practice safe driving skills. In New Jersey, its three phases include getting a student driver's permit and supervised driving for six months, moving to a probationary license requiring a minimum of one year of restricted but unsupervised driving, before getting a basic driver's license no earlier than the age of 18. Evidence shows that such programs reduce the crash risk for young and inexperienced drivers.

Before the current study, however, the level of compliance with the program was unknown. According to CHOP, its researchers linked New Jersey's licensing and crash record databases from July 2010 and June 2012, analyzing data from about 32,000 young drivers involved in 30,000-plus crashes. Researchers then focused on intermediate drivers who were not responsible in those crashes to figure out the compliance rates.

Their findings estimate that just 8 percent of trips taken by young intermediate drivers in New Jersey did not follow the passenger restriction and only 3 percent did not comply with the nighttime restriction. Such an approach gives analysis that is more objective that will facilitate future measurement and improvement of GDL compliance.

"There is a misperception that teen drivers with intermediate licenses do not follow GDL restrictions. The findings of this study, along with several naturalistic driving studies, help to dispel this myth," said Allison E. Curry, Ph.D, MPH, a senior scientist at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at CHOP and principal investigator of the study, in a statement. "However, this does not mean that we do not have more work to do. Although most new drivers follow the restrictions, there are still about 30,000 to 40,000 trips taken daily in New Jersey in which a teen driver does not comply with the state's passenger restriction. We need to educate all families on the purpose and benefits of following GDL to prevent teen driver crashes."

Those found to be less likely to follow GDL restrictions included males and youths from low-income areas. The research indicated that failure to follow the nighttime driving restriction was 35 percent higher for male drivers compared to female drivers. Compliance was lower during weekends and summer months, when teens are more likely to travel for social reasons, the study said.