The association of graduated driver licensing with miles driven and fatal crash rates per miles driven among adolescents

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Background—Graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws are associated with reduced crash rates per person-year among adolescents. It is unknown whether adolescents crash less per miles driven or drive less under GDL policies. Methods—We used data from the US National Household Travel Survey and Fatality Analysis Reporting System for 1995–1996, 2001–2002, and 2008–2009. We compared adolescents subject to GDL laws with those not, by estimating adjusted incidence rate ratios for being a driver in a crash with a death per person-year (aIRRpy) and per miles driven (aIRRm), and adjusted miles driven ratios (aMR) controlling for changes in rates over time. Results—Comparing persons subject to GDL policies with those not, 16-year-olds had fewer fatal crashes per person-year (aIRRpy 0.63, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.47, 0.91), drove fewer miles (aMR 0.79, 95% CI 0.63, 0.98), and had lower crash rates per miles driven (aIRRm 0.83, 95% CI 0.65, 1.06). For age 17, the aIRRpy was 0.83 (95% CI 0.60, 1.17), the aMR 0.80 (95% CI 0.63, 1.03), and the aIRRm 1.03 (95% CI 0.80, 1.35). For age 18, the aIRRpy was 0.93 (95% CI 0.72, 1.19), the aMR 0.92 (95% CI 0.77, 1.09), and the aIRRm 1.01 (95% CI 0.84, 1.23). Conclusions—If these associations are causal, GDL laws reduced crashes per person-year by about one-third among 16-year-olds; half the reduction was due to fewer crashes per miles driven and half to less driving. For ages 17 and 18, there was no evidence of reduced crash rates per miles driven.