Generally speaking, teenagers are more likely to engage in behavior that is dangerous, elevating the chances that they will be in a serious or fatal accident. Cinderella licence laws seek to alleviate this risk by legislating behavior. Granted, it might seem oppressive at first, like The Man is trying to get you and your social life down if you're under 21, but the rationale behind the laws has been proven time after time by numerous studies.
The central three components to "graduated licensing", as the laws are usually titled, are restrictions in the times a young driver may operate a car, the number of passengers the young driver may carry, and the use of seatbelts (which are mandatory in all 50 United States anyways). Other states often introduce other clauses (Colorado bans all cell phone usage under 21, while Michigan increased the age at which you may receive a permit by a half year), but those three clauses are central to practically all graduated licenses.
This is the reasoning behind the law:
- Most accidents occur between midnight and dawn. A recent study performed by Australian and American researchers in conjunction with Monash University found that crashes amongst youth were elevated during the weekend, most strongly from midnight to 6:00am. Weekend crashes were also directly related to the time, growing from 6:00 pm until 12:00 midnight. Crashes amongst youth were generally slightly higher than adult drivers during night-time hours (defined as 6:00pm to 6:00am). Fatal crashes were even more strongly linked. 1 Young drivers were significantly more likely to speed at night. Furthermore, alcoholic impairment rates increased at night, with the greatest increase linked to drivers with a 0.05 BAC or higher.2 Fleet Maintenance & Safety Report published that in a one year period, 1 out of every 12 motorists in Norway reported falling asleep while driving. According to The Star of Johannesburg, South Africa, driver fatigue is a factor in one out of three fatal vehicle accidents.3 Even the U.S. Army has noted that 23% of its servicemembers killed in motoring accidents are from fatigue or fatigue related impairment.4 This is a logical conclusion; as one drives later at night, more drivers are leaving pubs or bars, more drivers are more likely to be exhausted or fatigued, circadian rhythms reach a natural low, visibility becomes restricted, noctural animals start to appear, as well as many other intangible or unmeasurable effects.
- The number of passengers is also strongly linked to likelihood of a teenaged driver becoming a participant in an accident. A recent study indicated that a teenaged driver with only one passenger doubles their chances of being in a fatal accident compared to no passengers. For additional passengers, the risk was five times higher.5 Williams, Preusser and others noted that in police reports of fatal crashes in which two or more teenagers were in the vehicle, there is often evidence of distraction, physical
interference or inducements to risk taking.6 The same study noted a survey that reported that teenagers reported that in all the dangerous situations they had experienced in the last six months, 85% had more than one passenger in the car with them during the incident.7
- The fact that wearing seatbelts contributes to motoring safety is virtually universally accepted, yet many teenaged drivers continue not to wear them. Despite the fact that seatbelts prevent approximately 50% of serious injuries8, only about four in ten teens choose to wear seatbelts.9
Finally, your kids might hate you if you move to New Jersey (or Michigan and Colorado). But considering 8,278 teenagers died in vehicle accidents in 2002 (the superlative cause of teenager deaths), and cost taxpayers $42.3 billion in emergency services, medical costs, lost productivity and property damages10, your kids hating you is a small price to pay.