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Are graduated driver's licenses doing their job of saving lives?

In several states around the country, graduated driver's licenses have become commonplace. The process allows for a gradual ramping up of teenage drivers' abilities and responsibilities on the road. There are restrictions for times of day when it is permissible to drive and the number and ages of passengers who can be in the car.

The idea, of course, is to reduce the number of car accidents that young people have -- after all, it is the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States by far. If teens are driving more and more as they gain experience, then ideally they will be safer.

A complement to safe teen driving is driver education. As funding for in-school driver education has been cut over the last few decades, private driving schools have often taken their place. And while these schools might be more affordable, the quality of their instruction might not always be top notch.

One issue that has come up is that in many places, the graduated license requirements can be skipped if a student has completed a driver education course. However, since some courses now are completed much faster than in years past -- sometimes even over the Internet -- kids are ill-equipped to be on the road.

Some states that have revamped their driver education curriculum have seen huge improvements in fatality numbers; Oregon, for example, has seen the rate for fatal and nonfatal injury crashes for 16-year-old drivers drop by more than half; the figures are similarly dramatic for 17-year-olds.

Source: The New York Times, "The Mixed Bag of Driver Education," Tanya Mohn, June 22, 2012

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