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Awarded Grant to Prevent Unintentional Injury

Does Graduated Driver Licensing Produce Safer Teenage Drivers?

FOA Number: CE10-001 Preventing Unintentional Childhood Injuries
Project Period: 9/1/2010 - 8/31/2012
Application/Grant Number: CE001820
Principal Investigator: Zhu, Motao MD, PhD
West Virginia University
Community Medicine
PO Box 9190
Morgantown, WV 26506-9190
304.293.6682
mzhu@hsc.wvu.edu

Abstract

Project Summary/Abstract. To respond three RFA research objectives, we propose to evaluate recent and imminent changes in graduated driver licensing (GDL) legislation that could influence the rate of unintentional child injuries from traffic crashes (#6). We will evaluate GDL effects in traffic crash rate per mile driven and non-driver injuries per person-year among teenagers aged 15-17 years, which are directly related to the effectiveness of GDL in preventing transportation injuries among children (#4) and the policy debate on the most effective way to reduce childhood injuries (#7). Importance: Our comprehensive evaluation of GDL at the national level will provide strong scientific evidence to assess whether GDL does, in fact, produce safer drivers and how GDL affects transport choices. The information is important so that decisions can be made as to whether GDL should be continued in its current form or substantially modified for safer driving as opposed to limiting driving. Objectives: We will examine the impact of GDL on driving behaviors, alternative transportation, crash rate per mile driven and non-driver injuries per person-year among teenagers aged 15-17 years, and crash rate per mile driven among 18 year olds. The Specific Aims: 1) Identify changes in driving behaviors and crash rate per mile driven among 15-17 year olds due to GDL implementation. Hypotheses: GDL implementation reduces total trips as a driver, miles driven, driver fatality rates per person-year, driver injury rates per person-year, and driver crash involvement rates per person-year. However, driver death rates, injury rates, and crash rates per trip and per mile driven will not be reduced by GDL. 2) Identify how GDL affects the use of alternative means of transportation (public transport, walking, bicycling, being driven by others) by teenagers aged 15-17 years and how GDL affects deaths and injuries among 15-17 year olds who are vehicle passengers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Hypotheses: Among 15-17 year olds, GDL implementation increases walking, bicycling and riding as passengers, and increases their crash mortality rate, crash injury rate, and crash involvement rate as non-drivers per person-year. 3) Assess changes in driving behaviors and crash rate per mile driven among 18 year olds due to GDL implementation. Hypothesis: Traffic crash rate per mile driven among 18 year olds actually increases after GDL implementation. Study Design: natural experiment. The 1995, 2001, and 2008 National Household Travel Survey provide estimates on driving and transportation behaviors. The 1995-1996, 2001-2002, and 2008-2009 Fatality Analysis Reporting System and Police Accident Reports identify fatal and injury crashes. Setting: Nationwide (United States). Participants: age 15-18. Interventions: GDL classified as binary, ordinal (good, fair, marginal, poor), and specific components (entry age for learner permit, length of learner permit, hours of supervised driving, nighttime driving restriction, passenger restriction, duration of restriction, minimum age for intermediate phase, minimum age for full licensure). Outcome Measures: the number of miles and trips traveled per day, and crash rate per mile, trip, and person-year. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: Project Narrative Our proposed comprehensive evaluation of GDL at the national level is expected to provide strong scientific evidence needed to assess whether GDL does, in fact, produce safer drivers, and the extent to which GDL affects transport choices. Given that GDL influences nearly all adolescents and their families nationwide, the information is important so that decisions can be made as to whether GDL should be continued in its current form or substantially modified for safer driving as opposed to limiting driving. Our project contributes to a continuum of research, intervention, and policy modification to shift the paradigm to safer driving among teenagers at the national level.

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