Beginning-driver fatalities dropped 21% when learner’s permits were extended from six months to between nine and 12, according to new research cited by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Limiting passengers to one person also dropped the crash-death rate by 15% among drivers age 16 and 17.
Also, restricting night driving to 10 p.m. or earlier cuts fatal crashes among 16-year-olds by 19%.
IIHS estimates that if every state toughened its graduated licensing laws, more than 500 lives could be saved each year.
The study, conducted by California’s DMV and the University of North Carolina, drew from 21 years of nationwide fatal-crash data involving beginning drivers.
The bottom line: Researchers suggest that a longer permit period translates to more practice time, which boosts experience and driving skill.
IIHS’ own research concluded that banning young drivers from having any passengers at all is more effective than a one-passenger limit. But the new California-Carolina study proposes that young drivers are more likely to comply with a one-passenger limit than an outright ban.
Oregon had just one death in 2012 among drivers age 16-17, while Washington dropped from six deaths in 2011 to zero in 2012.