Graduated Driver Licensing Laws Contribute to Connecticut’s Relatively Low Number of Head Trauma-Related Deaths Among Teens

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256px-Medical_X-Ray_imaging_GKO04_nevitThe total number of traffic fatalities involving teen drivers has decreased nationwide by over forty-six percent since 2005, according to a recent study conducted by State Farm Insurance and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Over 55,000 teenagers, defined as those aged 15 to 19, suffered serious injuries in car accidents in 2009 and 2010. Of those, thirty percent of them suffered acute head trauma, such as skull fractures, concussions, and traumatic brain injury (TBI). This is the most common type of injury, followed by injuries to the lower extremities (27% of the total) and chest (14%). The report’s lead author noted that prevention is the best strategy for dealing with head trauma, since many TBI’s cause lasting or permanent damage. He also remarked that making teens wear helmets when driving is not a practical solution.

Connecticut has a relatively low rate of traffic fatalities with teen drivers. During the period from 2009 to 2010, the fatality rate was 7.5 per 100,000 population, the thirteenth-lowest in the country. This is also a decrease of 19.6% since 2005. The study’s authors credit graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws for contributing to low rates of teen-driver traffic fatalities. They further recommend that teens go through at least fifty hours of practice supervised by an adult driver before receiving an unrestricted license.

GDL laws limit the times of day and conditions when some licensed drivers may operate a vehicle. They may also limit the number of passengers certain drivers may transport and restrict drivers to certain geographic areas or a certain distance from a driver’s home. These laws can apply to young and newly-licensed drivers, but they may also apply to people with health or injury issues that would affect their ability to operate a vehicle safely in some circumstances. This has the benefit of providing opportunities for young drivers to practice in a somewhat-controlled environment, thus reducing the risk of head trauma and other injuries.

Connecticut’s GDL laws may include restrictions as to time of day and type of roadways, as well as use of corrective eyewear and certain vehicle features. A driver might be restricted to driving only during daylight hours. A driver may be required to drive only vehicles with an automatic transmission, or to drive only when wearing prescribed corrective lenses. For people restricted by medical conditions, the person’s physician may recommend specific restrictions to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.