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Curfew imposed for young drivers in effort to reduce death toll on Minnesota roads.

08 February, 2008
The American Graduated Driving License approach to make the roads safer may be unpopular with teenage motorists but is likely to have more effect than the UK's more cautious approach involving extended training and practical testing.
The death toll for young drivers on Britain's roads are sobering with as many as 40,000 people per year injured or killed in accidents involving inexperienced drivers and half of all drivers killed at night are under 25. In America, with more cars and more teenagers behind the wheel, the figures are even higher where the risks for teenage driver are considerably higher than for any other age group.

To tackle this problem, America has been embarking on a program to introduce the Graduated Driver's License (GDL) scheme in every state. Some states have been keener than others to implement the scheme and the latest to join is Minnesota which introduces it next week.

The scheme involves imposing limits on probationary drivers under 21 by restricting the number of non-family passengers they can carry and banning them outright from driving between midnight and 5am. These restrictions have been specifically targeted due to the increase in teenage fatalities after midnight and that the majority of the young people who are killed on the roads are passengers in cars driven by other teenagers.

A study by the California Department of Motor Vehicles show that accidents involved factors relating to a lack of experience such as poor judgement, low perception of risk and overconfidence along with social factors such as distraction, peer pressure and encouragement from passengers and the perception of the car as part of a culture of night time recreation which often includes alcohol.

With the likelihood of an accident occurring increasing by as much as four times when carrying passengers, the GDL scheme used this as one of the key elements for reducing the number of accidents.

Back in Britain, whilst road safety is demonstrating a steady year on year improvement, the toll on teenagers is climbing. To combat this, the Government is currently in a period of consultation regarding the establishment of more rigorous training programmes and a more comprehensive, lengthier and more practical test.

Looking at the American model, this would certainly overcome those factors relating to experience but wouldn't have any bearing on the social factors which exist the world over, and not just in America.
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