According to the statistics, young Kansas drivers are a lot safer than they were a few years ago and a new graduated driver’s license law is getting much of the credit.
New laws that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2010, require all teen drivers to hold a learner’s permit for a year before obtaining a restricted or unrestricted driver’s license. After youngsters who are 16 years or older obtain full licenses, they face additional restrictions for the first six months. They can’t use a cell phone while driving, carry more than one non-sibling minor passenger, or drive after 9 p.m. except if they are going to or from work or school.
The idea of the licensing steps is to give teens more experience driving with their parents on restricted licenses and, once they are driving on their own, to remove distractions and get them to pay attention to what they are doing when they are behind the wheel. It appears from recent traffic statistics that the law is having the desired effect.
News reports last week looked at Kansas Department of Transportation records that indicated the number of traffic accidents involving drivers 14 to 16 years old dropped from more than 5,000 in 2004 and 2005 to fewer than 3,000 in 2011. The number of fatalities involving drivers in that age group averaged 22 per year from 2004 to 2009. That number dropped to 15 in 2010 and just nine in 2011.
Although the new graduated licenses got a lot of credit for the decline, KDOT officials noted that the number of accidents involving young drivers had been steadily declining for several years probably as a result of laws passed earlier, notably the 2007 law requiring young drivers to wear seat belts.
No small amount of credit also should go to the teen drivers themselves for paying heed to the new laws and working not to become part of the accident and fatality statistics.
Regardless of the reason, it’s great to see such a drastic decline in young drivers involved in accidents. There are few things more tragic than a traffic accident that kills or seriously injures a teenager.