Context: Graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs are being adopted in many states to address the high rate of motor vehicle fatalities among teens by requiring teenaged drivers to gain experience and maturity under conditions of relatively low crash risk before gaining full driving privileges.
Objective: To evaluate the early impact of Michigan's GDL program on traffic crashes among 16-year-old drivers.
Design, setting, and subjects: Analysis of Michigan motor vehicle crash data from 1996 (before GDL program implementation) vs 1998 and 1999 (after GDL program implementation) for 16-year-olds, adjusting for trends among persons 25 years or older.
Intervention: Michigan's GDL program, instituted April 1, 1997, for teens younger than 18 years entering the driver license system, includes 3 licensure levels, each with driving restrictions and requirements to progress to the next level. Requirements include extended, supervised practice in the learning level, 2-phase driver education, and night driving restrictions in the intermediate level.
Main outcome measures: Rates in 1996 vs 1998 and 1999 for all police-reported crashes; for fatal injury, nonfatal injury, and fatal/nonfatal injury combined crashes; for day, evening, and night crashes; for single-vehicle and multivehicle crashes; and for alcohol-related crashes.
Results: Overall, the rate of 16-year-old drivers (per 1000 population) involved in crashes declined from 154 in 1996 to 111 in 1999 (relative risk [RR], 0.72; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.71-0.73). After adjusting for populationwide trends, the overall crash risk for 16-year-olds was significantly reduced in 1999 from 1996 by 25% (adjusted RR, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.74-0.77). There were also significant reductions for nonfatal injury and combined fatal and nonfatal crashes; for day, evening, and night crashes; and for single-vehicle and multivehicle crashes. Fatal crashes declined from 1996 to 1999, but not significantly (RR, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.49-1.14), and alcohol-related crashes continued at a low rate (RR, 1.01; 95% CI, 0.80-1.29).
Conclusions: Analysis of the first 2 full calendar years following Michigan's GDL program implementation indicates substantial crash reductions among 16-year-olds. Future research is necessary to determine if these reductions are maintained and if other jurisdictions achieve similar results.