NTSB Calls for GDL for Teens to Address Issue of Distraction Behind the Wheel

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The National Transportation Safety Board made its annual revisit of the “Most Wanted Transportation Safety Improvements” list and added a new recommendation for all states to create a safer category of the nation’s youngest drivers.

During a press conference, NTSB said motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people aged 15-20. So, it called for a comprehensive graduated driver’s licensing program that would address the high risk teenagers have of being involved in a crash.

The new driver’s license, or GDL, would consist a learner’s permit, an intermediate or provisional license and a full license. Restrictions would include limiting the number of passengers teens could drive and banning any use of interactive communications devices while driving.

While teen drivers represent on average less than 7 percent of the driving population, they account for more than 13 percent of drivers involved in deadly crashes. During the drive to and from school, NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting Systems shows that teens are 44 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash then if they were riding on a school bus.

NTSB said 49 states and the District of Columbia have strengthened their driver licensing systems in the past decade, but only 15 states have included all the elements that the NTSB recommends. Another 34 states lack some elements, and North Dakota does not have a three-stage GDL system. Twenty-two states in all lack passenger restrictions for novice drivers that would satisfy NTSB recommendations, and 24 states had no ban on interactive wireless communication by drivers with learner’s permits or intermediate licenses.

The NTSB’s updated “Most Wanted” list also included recommendations to improve child passenger safety in personal vehicles and to eliminate hard-core drinking and driving. NTSB reference the nation’s deadliest drunk driving accident that occurred 22 years ago, the deadly Carollton, Ky., school bus crash that killed 27 people. The incident led to federally-mandated improvements to school bus emergency evacuation and fuel tank integrity.