Making Oregon teens better drivers

The first year a teenager has a driver’s license is one of the most dangerous of their life: car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S.

That’s why Oregon put into place the Graduated Driver’s License (GDL) program more than a decade ago. Some of the rules that affected drivers under age 18 included:

–          New drivers must log 50 hours of driving experience and a traffic safety course before testing for an intermediate license. Alternately, they can log 100 hours of supervised driving.

–          For first 6 months, a teen driver may not carry any passenger younger than 20 (unless they are immediate family).

–          During second 6 months, driver may not carry more than 3 passengers under 20.

–          During first year, a cannot drive between midnight and 5 am, with few exceptions.

Now, Oregon’s driver education programs are among the best in the country – and teen drivers are much safer.

However, there is still room for improvement in the GDL.

First of all, after driving for six months, a teenager can legally have up to 3 teen passengers in the vehicle. However, a young driver’s fatality risk quadruples when carrying three passengers younger than 21, compared to driving with no teenage passengers. Should the passenger restrictions remain in place until age 18?

Also, teens who took a driving safety course in addition to their 50 hours of driving had fewer crashes than those who logged 100 hours of driving with parents. Is it likely that kids are learning unsafe driving practices from adults who aren’t great drivers themselves, or that the number of hours driven is being padded by tired parents?

The implementation of the GDL, while not always popular, has made teenagers better drivers and made the roads safer for all of us. I hope that we can continue to lead the way for safe teens in Oregon.