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Study: Tougher licensing laws reduce teen driver deaths

5:27 AM, May 31, 2012   |    comments
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ARLINGTON, Va. -- It's a moment many a teenager waits for -- getting their drivers license.

But every year, the number of teen driving deaths are a sobering reminder of the dangers that come with that new piece of plastic.

Now, a new study shows the stricter a state's laws are around that new license, the better the chance of keeping those kids alive behind the wheel.

Tougher licensing laws are saving teen lives, according to a new study out Thursday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Since 1996 when states began enacting graduated driver licensing rules, the death rates for teenage drivers has plummeted.

"So for 16-year-olds, for example, per capita fatal crash rates have fallen by more than 60 per cent," said Anne McCartt, IIHS research vice president. 

It's a drop the agency credits to a range of new limitations put on teen drivers -- including higher age requirements, longer supervised practice hours, nighttime driving restrictions and one of the most important: A ban on all teen passengers. 

"There's a 21 per cent reduction in the fatal crash rate associated with allowing no passengers versus allowing two or more passengers," McCartt said. 

While each state is different, the study shows the stricter the restrictions, the more time a teen driver has to learn and mature behind the wheel.

But those behind this new study say parents shouldn't just leave it up to their state to determine when and how their teen starts driving.

"So parents should look at our research and they should go beyond what their state laws are requiring," McCartt said. 

It may not be a popular decision at home, but it could save lives on the road.

According to the study, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey are among the states with the best licensing practices due to their permit age and restrictions on new drivers.

South Dakota and Iowa rank among the worst.

The full report can be found on the IIHS website.

By KURT GREGORY, NBC News

NBC News

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