Problem: Young drivers, particularly those who are newly licensed, have a very high crash risk. This paper examines the risk factors underlying their high crash rates and assesses the extent to which existing graduated licensing programs address these risks and whether improvements to these programs should be considered.
Method: Review and synthesis of the literature.
Results: The elevated risk among young drivers of being in an injury crash is the result of a number of factors found alone or in combination, such as risky driving, alcohol use, seat belt nonuse, driver distraction, fatigue, and vehicle choice. Nighttime and passenger restrictions, adopted widely in the United States, work by keeping drivers out of hazardous situations rather than by addressing risk factors directly. However, the risk factors remain in play in driving situations not specifically restricted by law. Although other graduated licensing components adopted around the world-more stringent exit tests (i.e., you need to pass a test to move to the next stage), hazard perception tests, and restrictions on speed, vehicle power, and roadway access-make sense based on the identified risk factors, they are not yet supported by research. Should research findings warrant it, consideration should be given to providing guidance to parents about how to keep their beginning drivers safe, including information on vehicle choice.
Impact on research, practice, and policy: Researchers should continue to monitor and to evaluate innovative approaches to reduce the crash risk of young drivers. The effectiveness of new approaches should be established before adoption on a wider scale takes place.