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Graduated driver license helps protect teen drivers

Driving is a dangerous activity. The more than 30,000 deaths that occur every year in the U.S. are a tragic reminder of this danger. For new teen drivers there is a wide variety of reasons why they are at particular risk.

While they may have ridden in cars from the time they were infants in car seats, it is very different when they are in control of a vehicle and have to make the sometimes split-second decisions that can mean the difference between life and death.

Because teens are new to driving, they often suffer from overconfidence bias. They simply have not driven enough hours and experienced enough driving situations to realize the danger different road conditions or weather may pose.

They may have learned to drive in dry, summer conditions with optimal visibility. That experience may not fully prepare them for driving in the evening when a sudden rainstorm and falling darkness makes both road surfaces slick and reflective. They may fail to slow down adequately and when they finally see a stopped car or pedestrian, it may be too late.

Teens also place themselves at risk of more severe injuries resulting from an accident when they fail to use their seatbelts. As a group, they have low usage rates and 60 percent of fatal accidents involving drivers 20-years-old and younger in the U.S. were not wearing seatbelts.

Numerous other factors can combine to increase their risk, including distracted driving due to texting, speeding, drunk driving and even having additional teens in the car.

The Graduated Driver License (GDL) is designed to help keep teens safe, as it prohibits risky conduct, such as using cellphones by teen drivers and does not allow them to have more than one passenger unless their parent is along.

It also prohibits overnight driving and requires teens display a red sticker on the vehicle's license plate, which allows police to better enforce these restrictions. 

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