'Graduated licensing' catches on

More states are recognizing the need for new teenage drivers to gain practice behind the wheel before securing their licenses.

The results have been startling.

In states that have used some type of "graduated licensing" for several years, teen-driving fatalities have fallen. In North Carolina, for example, accidents involving 16-year-old drivers dropped 26 percent between 1997 and 1999; fatalities and serious injuries dropped 29 percent.

The concept of graduated licensing usually involves probationary stages the driver must pass through to complete his or her driver's license. So far, 31 states, the District of Columbia, and several foreign countries have adopted a multi-stage program, and 11 other states require at least one component.

In most cases, graduated licensing means:

*A minimum six-month instruction phase with 50 hours of supervised driving practice, in addition to standard, school-based driver's education classes.

*No unsupervised late-night driving. Curfews for teen drivers for one year. Exceptions made for employment or school-related activities.

*Limit on number of other teenage passengers in car for the first six months to one year.

*Time period (three months up to one year), during which the driver must be free of at-fault crashes and traffic convictions.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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