It is well documented that motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of fatalities in the United States, with young drivers experiencing fatal crashes at significantly higher rates than older drivers. This increase is typically caused by driver inexperience and the tendency of adolescents to engage in higher-risk driving behaviors.
20 years ago, the Teenage & Adult Driver Responsibility Act (TADRA) established graduated driver licensing for Georgians between the ages of 15 to 18. TADRA directly addresses the leading killer of young people – traffic crashes. The law changes how young motorists earn and maintain the privilege of driving by providing a controlled means for new drivers to gain experience and by reducing high-risk driving situations. The law also contains provisions that affect drivers over 21, particularly in the area of DUI prevention and enforcement.
How does TADRA change licensing requirements for young Georgia drivers?
The law requires young drivers to successfully pass through 3 steps to achieve full licensure.
- Step 1: The Instructional Permit is available to persons age 15 and up after passing a knowledge examination. While driving, the permit holder must be accompanied by a licensed adult, 21 years of age or older, who is capable of exercising control of the vehicle and who is sitting in the front passenger seat.
- Step 2: The Provisional License is issued to 16- and 17-year-olds who have held an Instructional Permit for one calendar year and a day, without committing any major traffic violations, and have passed a road driving test.
- Step 3: The Full License is available to persons age 18 and up if there have been no major traffic convictions for the previous 12 months.
How has TADRA changed the rate of deadly crashes involving young drivers in Georgia?
A study was led by Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. In the 2006 study, data from the Fatal Accident Reporting System, managed by the federal government agency NHTSA, were used to calculate annualized fatal crash rates of various age groups of drivers during an 11-year interval - 5½ years before TADRA was enacted, and 5½ years afterward.
The study showed that during the pre-enactment period, 317 Georgia drivers aged 16 were involved in a fatal crash, compared to 230 in the post-enactment period. Speed-related fatal crashes were reduced by 42%, and alcohol-related fatal crashes decreased almost 60%.
What do these reduced numbers say about the TADRA Act and graduated driver licensing?
Clearly, the enactment of this law in Georgia has had a positive effect on the driving behaviors and safety of young drivers. Currently all 50 states and the District of Columbia have some form of GDL program. However, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, if every state adopted the strictest limitations, the nation would reduce the number of crashes each year by more than 9,500 and save more than 500 lives.