Data supports Utah’s graduated driver licensing laws

In Utah, a teen or young adult driver is involved in a traffic accident about once every 25 minutes, according to the Utah Department of Public Safety. Nationwide, teenage drivers make up a disproportionate share of drivers involved in fatal traffic accidents, due in large part to their lack of driving experience. In recent years, updated driver's licensing laws help to mitigate this risk, but young people still face a higher risk of traffic fatalities than more mature drivers.

Teen driving risk factors

Statistics from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety show that teenagers are about 50 percent more likely to crash during their first month of driving than they are after they have been driving on their own for a year. While the risk begins to decline after those first few weeks, it is not entirely eliminated; about nine out of 10 traffic accidents involving teen drivers occur within the first several months after becoming licensed.

According to data from the Utah DPS, the most common causes of fatal accidents involving teen drivers include:

  • Driving too fast (35 percent)
  • Failing to stay in the correct lane (18 percent)
  • Impaired driving (14 percent)
  • Failing to yield the right of way (14 percent)
  • Overcorrecting (14 percent)

Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that the two main risk factors contributing to the higher rate of deadly crashes in that age group are immaturity and inexperience. Another risk factor, which may be easier to overlook, is the presence of other teenagers in the car. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teen drivers are more likely to be involved in a fatal crash when there are other teenagers present in the vehicle - and the risk continues to grow as the number of teen passengers increases.

Graduated driver licensing saves lives in Utah

To help prevent accidents involving teen drivers, Utah lawmakers enacted a Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program in 1999. The program creates a three-tiered licensing system that allows teens to gradually take on more responsibility as they gain experience, thus helping them to make it through their early driving years more safely.

Utah's GDL law and others like it throughout the country help keep teens and others safe by placing restrictions on newly licensed teen drivers, for instance by limiting nighttime driving or capping the number of minor passengers who may be present in a vehicle without supervision. Since the state's GDL program went into effect, the number of 15- to 17-year-olds killed in traffic accidents each year has dropped by 62 percent, according to data from the Utah Department of Health.

Despite substantial improvements in teen traffic safety, however, young drivers remain at a heightened risk for serious car accidents. People between the ages of 15 and 24 made up just 20 percent of all licensed drivers in Utah. However, that age group accounted for 41 percent of all vehicle accidents and 29 percent of traffic fatalities statewide in 2012.

Talk to a lawyer after a crash

Graduated driver licensing laws help protect not only teen drivers themselves, but also their passengers and everyone else on the road. If you or a member of your family has been hurt in a traffic accident, be sure to seek advice from a personal injury lawyer. He or she can help you explore your legal options and may be able to assist you in securing financial compensation for your injuries and related expenses.