Teen driving laws have a surprising impact on crime

pinellas policeA government report that was just released showed that state laws/regulations regarding teen driving has actually contributed to a large decrease in crime.

Starting in the early 90’s a few states passed GDL (graduated driver licensing) laws, making teenagers gain experience driving before they could become fully licensed drivers.  As of this writing, all 50 states have some form of GDL.  Now, research has suggested that these laws have contributed to fewer teenagers being arrested for nontraffic-related crimes.

State GDL laws, limiting teens ability to drive at night, have led to fewer kids being arrested for battery and burglary.  In effect, driving curfews have cut down teenagers being out in the dark when the majority of violent crimes and home invasions take place.

When these laws were first being passed, the effect on crime was not a consideration.  The sole purpose was to improve teen safety.  These findings, if correct, are just a happy bonus.  This protects both the public and keeps kids out of the juvenile criminal court system.

Still, this study is new and more correlation is needed.  Yet so far, studies have shown that introduction of the GDL has reduced total arrests of 16- and 17-year-olds between 4 and 6 percent.

It appears that the nighttime driving restriction is the main reason behind the crime reduction.  States in which driving curfews are not lifted until 17 or 18 see an even larger drop in arrests for 16-year-olds.

The study also shows certain crimes drop more then others.  The FBI tracked nine of the most serious crimes and found various degrees of change.  For instance, theft crimes dropped between 5 and almost 7 percent.  Aggravated assault charges dropped between 4 and 6 percent.  Even murders saw a decline.  However, other crimes such as grand theft auto and sexual battery saw little to no change.

These results were determined by comparing arrests between juveniles and 18-24-year-olds acting as a control group.  They were then cross checked between each state and particular age groups for each year between 1995 and 2011 while taking into consideration other law changes.  The conclusion?  Fewer teens driving at night means fewer arrests.

The report also found that traffic enforcement by police played a role as well.  Depending on the state and the particular rules, many teens were ticketed or charged with driving at night.

One final bit of good news.  It appears that the GDL restrictions had a part in lowering teenage traffic deaths.  The study showed that the longer kids had to wait for their driving licenses or permits, the lower the state’s teen driving fatalities.  The much stricter nighttime driving restrictions also yielded lower auto deaths.

Blake & Dorsten, P.A. is a full service personal injury and criminal defense law firm serving the Gulf Coast, Florida community.  We handle all car accident and criminal defense cases throughout Saint Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa Bay, Bradenton, Sarasota, Largo, Safety Harbor, Dade City and New Port Richey.

The Lawyers of Blake & Dorsten, P.A. are available to you by clicking the contact button or calling directly at 727.286.6141.

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