The senate is considering a National Graduated Driver LicensingIncentive Grant Program that would phase young beginners into fulldriving privileges as they mature and develop driving skills. Inorder to qualify for federal grants, the bill would require statesto have three-stage licensing processes that would includeprohibitions on nighttime driving during the learner andintermediate stages. In addition, during the first two stages, morethan one non-family member passenger would not be allowed in thevehicle unless a licensed driver at least 21 years old werepresent.

The American Insurance Association commended Sen. ChristopherDodd (D.-Conn.) and Sen. John Warner (R.-Va.) for their sponsorshipof S. 795. “Teenage drivers have very high rates of both fatal andnonfatal crashes compared with drivers of other ages. Immaturityand lack of driving experience are the main reasons,” said MelissaShelk, AIA vice president, federal affairs. “Compared with olderdrivers, teenagers as a group are more willing to take risks andless likely to use seat belts. They also are more likely tounderestimate the dangers associated with hazardous situations andless able to cope.”

In 2002, teen drivers constituted only 6.4 percent of alldrivers, but were involved in 14.3 percent of all fatal motorvehicle crashes, Shelk stated, adding that 41 percent of teenagemotor vehicle deaths occurred between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.Injuries from vehicle crashes are the leading public health problemfor people 13 to 19 years old.

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