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Teen Drivers: Hurry up and Wait

There's an apocryphal story of a teenager who arrives at 6:30 the morning of his 16th birthday at the Department of Motor Vehicles so he can be the first one to push through the doors when they open. When 8:00 finally arrives he hurries to the counter with his learner's permit application and hands it to the woman on the other side. She looks up from her glasses and says to him: "What took you so long?"

Teenagers today might be in just as much of a hurry to get behind the wheel, but graduated driving laws are designed to slow them down from getting there before they might be entirely ready, and to help them become better drivers once they are. Westport teenager Max Meyer-Bosse, a Staples High School senior and licensed driver for the past six months, agrees that graduated licensing laws are, if not always convenient, helpful: "It makes sense that you shouldn't drive with any distractions at first," he said, referring to the law excluding peers from vehicles while a young driver is at the wheel. "Also, I guess it's good to have an adult there to help guide you and answer your questions," he added.

In 2008, 36 people were killed in crashes involving teen drivers in Connecticut. Over the past five years, Connecticut crashes involving teen drivers have claimed 265 lives. Graduated Driver Licensing systems (GDLs) have been proven effective in reducing the crash risk of new teen drivers by phasing them into full driving privileges gradually over time. This way they gain experience and develop driving skills in lower-risk conditions, such as during daylight hours, with an adult passenger and without the presence of other young drivers in the vehicle. GDL systems can reduce crash rates among teen drivers up to 40 percent, according to parentingteens.

"It really seems like a long time before you can just drive," says Max with just a tinge of impatience in his voice. But no one, particularly his parents, minds the wait.

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