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Teen Crashes Drop After Calif. Graduated License Law

New analysis shows car crashes involving 16-year-olds down 23 percent since 1998 law

TUESDAY, Sept. 5 (HealthDay News) -- California's 16-year-old drivers got involved in 23 percent fewer car crashes causing death and injury after the state's graduated licensing law took effect in 1998, according to a new analysis released Aug. 31 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. An earlier study found no drop in teen crashes under the new law.

Thomas J. Zwicker of the Preusser Research Group in Trumbull, Conn., and colleagues studied 1995-2003 data on car crashes involving 16-year-old drivers before and after 1998. The 1998 law lengthened the learners' permit period, required student-drivers to practice at least 50 hours, and blocked 16-year-olds from unsupervised late-night driving for a year, and from unsupervised driving of other teens for six months.

The researchers found that during the 66 months after the new law took effect, car crashes involving 16-year-old drivers where there were injuries or deaths dropped by 23 percent. They calculated that during the same period, the law spared more than 8,000 injuries and deaths involving 16-year-old drivers, while crashes involving 16-year-old drivers and injuries to teen passengers dropped by 38 percent.

"California's graduated licensing law has reduced 16-year-old driver involvements in crashes," the authors write. "The results differ from those of Masten and Hagge (2003) who found no overall effects for 16-year-olds. Their modeling process was overly restrictive and did not adequately account for seasonal and other systematic non-linear periodic trends in injury and fatal crashes."

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