If your teen is itching to get behind the wheel, new research underscores the importance of signing them up for driver's education.
The study found that driver training and graduated licensing significantly reduced young newbies' risk of crashes.
"With comprehensive licensing requirements, these younger drivers can perform better than older novice drivers who are exempt from these requirements," said lead author Elizabeth Walshe, a research scientist at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
"All novice drivers need the proper training that leads to developing the critical driving skills needed to avoid crashes," she said in a hospital news release.
Walshe and her team analyzed data on crashes among nearly 130,000 Ohio drivers, ages 16 to 24, in the year after they got their licenses.
Ohio requires driver training and graduated licensing for those licensed before age 18, but not for those who get their license at 18 or older.
Compared with drivers licensed at age 18, those licensed at 16 had a 27% lower crash rate in their first two months and a 14% lower rate in the first year after getting their license.
Rates among drivers licensed at age 17 were 19% lower and 6% lower, respectively, than those licensed at 18.
The researchers also found that among would-be drivers under 25, the most successful with the on-road license examination were 16-year-olds. Their failure rate was 22%, compared with 37% among 18-year-olds, according to findings published April 25 in JAMA Network Open.
When researchers controlled for other factors, they found that for every month in the learner permit stage, there was a 2% reduction in crash rates.
New drivers in neighborhoods with the lowest levels of wealth and education had significantly higher crash rates and were more likely to fail their first on-road driving test than those in the best-educated and most wealthy areas.
That suggests the need to make comprehensive training more affordable, according to the researchers.
"Unlike conventional thinking, this study shows that we should not assume that the youngest new drivers will have the highest crash rates," Walshe said.
Co-author Dr. Flaura Winston, co-scientific director of CIRP, said these findings and other recent studies suggest a need to reexamine licensing requirements.
"Currently, only 15 states mandate behind-the-wheel training, and in those states that do, the cost can be prohibitive," Winston said in the release. "We need to consider making this training available and affordable for all."
There's more on teen drivers at the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
SOURCE: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, news release, April 25, 2022