Research In Action

Research In Action

comprehensive licensing research
Comprehensive Licensing Policies Linked to Safer Novice Drivers

We just published a new paper in JAMA Network Open that shows there are age-related differences in licensing and crash outcomes that track with age-related licensing policies in Ohio.

License applicants in Ohio who are younger than 18 years old are subject to Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) restrictions and mandated to complete driver education and professional driver training at a driving school before being allowed to take the license examination. However, license applicants age 18 and older do not have any GDL restrictions and do not need to complete driver education and training before taking the license exam and gaining a license.

In line with this, the data we studied from Ohio showed that license applicants ages 16 and 17 are more likely to pass their first license examination attempt than applicants age 18. We also saw that among drivers who get licensed, those licensed at 16 and 17 have lower crash rates than drivers licensed at 18, who had the highest crash rates of all under age 25 in the first 2 and 12 months after licensure.

Another key finding from the paper is that across all age groups, drivers who live in lower income and education level neighborhoods (determined by the driver license address zip code and the American Community Survey sociodemographic data available for neighborhood tracts), also have higher crash rates after getting licensed than those living in higher income and education neighborhoods.

Socioeconomic Status (SES) and Delaying Licensure

We did some further analysis after the paper was submitted to see if this SES indicator was associated with the age at which teens in Ohio first attempted the licensing examination (in other words, the first time they attempted the on-road test). Here’s what we found:

  • Looking at 16- to 18-year-old license applicants, the odds of teens waiting until age 18 to take the license exam were 9.8 times higher for those from lower SES neighborhoods than higher SES neighborhoods.
  • One possible interpretation of this is that teens from lower SES neighborhoods may delay licensure until age 18 due to financial reasons, for example to avoid the expense of driver training, or when they can afford a car.
    • This finding is in line with other studies that have been published previously showing a relationship between delayed licensure and lower household income. One such study, conducted at CHOP, found that at least one in three novice drivers wait until after turning age 18 to pursue getting licensed to drive, mostly for reasons related to opportunity, cost, and motivation.

While our research suggests that Ohio’s licensing policy mandating driver education and training, in addition to GDL for those under age 18, appears to be associated with reduced crash rates for young drivers, the possibly financial barriers to accessing these programs should be considered.

Comprehensive driver training, including behind-the-wheel instruction, needs to be more affordable for all. All novice drivers need the proper training that leads to developing critical driving skills to reduce crash risk.

Read the press release.

Read the abstract.