Tougher restrictions proposed to cut teen driver fatal crashes

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Tougher nighttime restrictions on teenage drivers is one of the most effective ways to cut teen traffic fatalities around the Washington region, according to a new study by a highway safety group.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety report also recommends not granting provisional licenses until 17 years of age and requiring more practice hours for beginner drivers.

Teen driving deaths across the country have fallen by more than 40 percent since 1996, and Anne McCartt, IIHS's senior vice president for research, said stricter rules could keep that number trending downward. Had every state followed its best-practices outlines, the study estimates 500 lives could have been saved nationwide each year and best 9,500 collisions avoided.

Around the region
D.C. Maryland Virginia
Permit age 16 years old 15 years, 9 months 15 years, 6 months
License age 16 years, 6 months 16 years, 6 months 16 years, 3 months
Required practice hours40 60 45
Nighttime restrictionSept. through June: 12 a.m. 12 a.m.
10:59 p.m./11:59 p.m. (Fri./Sat.)
July and Aug.:
11:59 p.m.

Though the District has some of the best laws concerning teen drivers, a recent study suggests rule changes could further decrease the number of fatal teen accidents by 17 percent.

McCartt claims that by matching the best laws in other states, Virginia could reduce fatal teen accidents by 37 percent and Maryland by 19 percent. South Dakota, where drivers can get a learner's permit at 14 years old, has the largest room for improvement, potentially lowering rates by 63 percent.

"We believe that the research behind these estimates is sound," McCartt said. "I think states have made great progress, but what we're suggesting with this latest report is we think states could do better."

A Maryland lawmaker proposed legislation in 2010 to impose a 10 p.m. teen driving restriction in his state, but the bill failed. Neither Maryland, Virginia or the District is currently considering changes to teen driving laws.

Right now, District teens can get a learner's permit at 16 years old and a full license six months later. A nighttime restriction of midnight for most that year is then in place until their 18th birthday.

The IIHS suggests all states adopt a nighttime restriction of 8 p.m.

"Not just for teens but drivers of any age, it's more of a challenge to drive at night," McCartt said. "But part of it, too, is the kind of driving at night tends to be more recreational. ... It may cut back on driving when there are other risk behaviors going on."

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