In many states, nighttime restrictions for young drivers begin too late to have the greatest impact on fatal crash rates, according to a new study.
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said restrictions that begin at midnight or later “provide minimal protection” as teens rarely are behind the wheel during this time.
The report “Graduated Driver Licensing Night Driving Restrictions and Drivers Aged 16 or 17 Years Involved in Fatal Night Crashes – United States, 2009-2014” was published today in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
As part of their graduated driver licensing programs, all states except Vermont have restrictions on night driving for teens, according to the report.
“The increased risk is attributed in part to teens’ inexperience with driving in the dark and high-risk behaviors, such as speeding, driving after drinking alcohol, and carrying teen passengers,” the authors wrote.
Analyzing crash data, they found that during the study period, roughly 31% of the 6,104 fatal crashes involving 16- and 17-year-old drivers occurred at night. Of those, 57% occurred before midnight. However, in 23 states and Washington, D.C., driving restrictions don’t begin until midnight or later.
The authors suggested that states consider starting nighttime driving restrictions earlier and that authorities better enforce seat belt and drinking laws.
“The study results illustrate the importance of each state examining and balancing the unique needs for both mobility and safety of their teen population, particularly related to nighttime travel,” they wrote.