Teen Crashes Declined After Massachusetts Raised Penalties For Graduated Licensing Law Restricting Night Driving
Author: Shantha M. W. Rajaratnam, Christopher P. Landrigan, Wei Wang, Rachel Kaprielian, Richard T. Moore, Charles A. Czeisler
In 2007, as part of the Massachusetts graduated driver-licensing program designed to allow junior operators (ages 16½–17 years) to gain experience before receiving full licensure, stringent penalties were introduced for violating a law prohibiting unsupervised driving at night; driver education, including drowsy driving education, became mandatory; and other new restrictions and penalties began. We evaluated the impact of these changes on police-reported vehicle crash records for one year before and five years after the law’s implementation in drivers ages 16–17, inclusive, and two comparison groups. We found that crash rates for the youngest drivers fell 18.6 percent, from 16.24 to 13.22 per 100 licensed drivers. For drivers ages 18–19 the rates fell by 6.7 percent (from 9.59 to 8.95 per 100 drivers), and for those ages 20 and older, the rate remained relatively constant. The incidence rate ratio for drivers ages 16–17 relative to those ages 20 and older decreased 19.1 percent for all crashes, 39.8 percent for crashes causing a fatal or incapacitating injury, and 28.8 percent for night crashes. Other states should consider implementing strict penalties for violating graduated driver-licensing laws, including restrictions on unsupervised night driving, to reduce the risk of sleep-related crashes in young people.