Background: Few previous studies have directly compared crash rates of older and younger novice drivers. To inform discussion about whether Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) policies that are applied in the US for younger novice drivers should be applied to older novice drivers, we conducted a longitudinal study to examine overall, nighttime, and multiple passenger crash rates over the initial four years of licensure differ for novice drivers licensed at different ages.
Methods: Using data from the New Jersey Traffic Safety Outcomes (NJ-TSO) data warehouse, we selected all NJ drivers who obtained their initial intermediate driver's license from 2006 through 2014 and had at least one month of follow-up from the date of licensure to study end or death (n=1,034,835). Novice drivers were grouped based on age at licensure: age 17; 18-20; 21-24; and 25 or older. We estimated monthly rates for overall crashes (per 10,000 licensed drivers) as well as: late night crashes (11:01 p.m.-4:59 a.m.); early night crashes (9:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m.); and multiple passenger crashes (two or more passengers). Average monthly rates were calculated for specific relevant time periods and Poisson regression models were used to compare rates: (1) between novice driver groups with the same time since licensure; (2) over the first 48 months of licensure within each novice driver group; and (3) between same-aged 21-year-old drivers with varying lengths of licensure.
Results: Although initial (three months post-licensure) overall crash rates of novice NJ drivers age 21 and older were higher than rates of same-aged experienced drivers, they were substantially lower than initial rates for 17- to 20-year-old novice drivers, who are licensed under GDL policies. Moreover, older novice drivers experience much less steep crash reductions over the first year of licensure than younger novice drivers. Nighttime crash rates among the 21- to 24-year old and aged 25 and older novice driver groups were stable over the first year of licensure. For novice drivers under age 21, early night crash rates declined rapidly over the course of licensure, while changes in late night crashes were much smaller. First-year multiple passenger crash rates were highest for drivers licensed at age 18-20, and novice driver groups experienced varying amounts of reduction in multiple passenger crashes over time.
Conclusions: Study findings support NJ's current GDL policies for 17- to 20-year-old novice drivers and the potential for added benefits from beginning the nighttime restriction at 9:00 p.m. Conversely, there was a lack of compelling evidence for additional policies for drivers licensed at age 21-24 and no evidence to indicate a need for additional GDL policies for NJ novices aged 25 years and older.
Keywords: Laws; Licensing age; Licensing policies; New drivers; Teen driver; Young driver.
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