Could Stricter Laws Save the Lives of Teen Drivers?

Guest post from Jennifer Patrick of Still Living the Dream. Jennifer attended Allstate‘s Teen Driving Summit on behalf of 5 Minutes for Mom and returned with some important information to share with our readers.

Teen driving

Did you know that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in youth between the ages of 15 and 20 and that, on average, nearly 10 teens die every day in car crashes?

Additionally, in 2009 to 2010 alone over 15,000 teens suffered head injuries including concussion, skull fractures and traumatic brain injuries.

As a mother with a child who will be behind the wheel in just three or four years, these facts scare me. Distractions like cell phones and texting weren’t even an issue when I was eagerly grabbing my mother’s car keys to drive my friends to the mall. And it was dangerous back then to be a teen driver.

According to the National Safety Council Parent Education Campaign, the leading cause of teen car crashes is inexperience and the most dangerous year of a person’s life is the year AFER they obtain their driver’s license. AFTER.

Before attending The Allstate Foundation’s Teen Driving Summit in Chicago last month, I thought once you earned your driver’s license you were fully prepared to hit the road safely. I was wrong. As a parent, I need to be very involved in my child’s driving education even now, years before my son will get behind the wheel (by modeling good driving behavior), but especially after he receives his license.

jennifer patrick family

Graduated Driver Licensing

Have you heard about Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL)?

Until attending the Summit, I hadn’t. In fact, according to The Allstate Foundation License to Save Report, only 60 percent of parents are aware of GDL laws or even know what it is.

Implemented in the 1990‘s, GDL allows teen drivers the opportunity to gain driving experience before obtaining full driving privileges. MOST state programs include three stages:

  • Learner – supervised driving and then a test
  • Intermediate – limited unsupervised driving in high risk situations
  • Full privilege – standard driver’s license

Teen.parent driving

GDL laws differ in each state; however,

  • 31 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers.
  • 48 states and D.C. restrict nighttime driving during the intermediate stage.
  • 45 states and D.C. restrict the number of passengers during the intermediate stage.

The age a teen can start the process at the learner stage varies between 14 and 16 years of age depending on the state. The duration and required supervised hours before going on to the intermediate stage varies greatly between states but some do not require any! This is frightening, because it’s only experience that will make a teen a better driver. And at The Summit I heard first hand about how

Unfortunately, no state Graduated Driver’s License law currently meets all of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations. But through a partnership with The Allstate Foundation, they are working hard towards strengthening GDL systems nationwide and creating awareness about the pediatrician’s and parent’s role in educating teens about safe driving.

GDL laws exist in every state, but provisions of each state’s law vary widely.

To find out what your state’s GDL laws are, visit The Governor’s Highway Safety Association.

Did you know about GDL and the laws specific to your state? Do you think the laws are strict enough?

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Disclosure: I was invited to attend The Allstate Foundation Teen Driving Summit to learn about this very important issue and participate with leaders across the country. My travel expenses, meals and accommodations were provided by The Allsate Foundation, but no other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

jennifer patrick headshotJennifer Patrick is a wife, mother of two young children and freelance writer in Houston, Texas. She blogs at Still Living The Dream where she shares her passion for good books, creative projects and fun things to do as well as her humorous look at parenting and the pursuit of items on her ever-growing Life List. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!


  1. says

    Thanks for all of the thorough information! It can be so confusing with the laws differing from state to state. But it’s so important to do anything and everything we can to encourage safer driving!

  2. Lori Bishop says

    Thanks Jenn! I have a 15yr old driver. I am seriously considering getting one of those devices that turns off the phones when the vehicle is moving. I don’t know a lot about them but if they are available then lives could be saved! That would be worth adding to teen driving laws!

  3. Jessica says

    Thanks for sharing this information! Having a son who started driving 2 years ago we did a lot of research on the laws in our state and attended a class together. However, I think parents need to be very aware of what their kids are doing and stick to the laws themselves. Our state requires drivers to have their license 6 months before they can drive with other “kids”, unless they are siblings. We used to joke about how we had a caravan of cars in our driveway but were happy our son and his friends were following the rules of the road. Unfortunately, many parents in my town knowingly let their kids drive with their friends when they haven’t had their license for the required 6 months. How do we expect our kids to follow the laws when we (or rather, some parents) knowingly let them break them.

  4. says

    Thanks for the information! As a mom to 4 drivers (ages 22 to 16) I can tell you that the concern each and every time they get behind the wheel of the car never leaves. There are so many distractions! Good information!!

  5. says

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