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Driving curfew for those 16 and 17 should start much earlier, CDC report says
Most states have a graduated driver's license for young drivers, but a new report from the CDC says most curfews are set later than they should be, for safety's sake. - photo by Lois M Collins
States that hope to protect young drivers and those who encounter them on America's roads often use curfews as part of a graduated driver's license. The goal is to restrict how late young drivers, those 16 and 17 years old, can be on the road as they become used to driving.

Night hours tend to be dangerous for them.

In most states with the graduated driver's license, the curfew is midnight. But a new analysis of traffic crashes by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says public officials and parents should set curfews much earlier. For the sake of safety, young drivers should be off the road by about 9 p.m.

It also suggests that all drivers younger than 18 be subject to a driving curfew. The rules vary, state to state.

The CDC recommendation was part of the July 29 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. It said "approximately one-third (31 percent) of U.S. drivers aged 16 or 17 years involved in fatal crashes during 20092014 crashed during the night hours of 9 p.m.5:59 a.m. Among drivers involved in night crashes, 57 percent crashed before 12 a.m. State-level analyses revealed an approximately twofold variation among states in both the proportions of all drivers aged 16 or 17 years involved in fatal crashes that occurred at night and the proportions of night fatal crash involvements that occurred before 12 a.m."

Vermont is the only state that doesn't have some type of graduated driver's license. Typically, with such a license, a young driver would be restricted during the first six months behind the wheel, both by the clock and a ban against hauling around other youths. After six months, the curfew moves back somewhat and at some point it disappears. The details are different from one state to another, however.

"The CDC found that while every state except Vermont has night driving restrictions as part of their graduated license programs, nationwide 31 percent of the 16- and 17-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes from 20092014 were involved in night crashes. This happened even though only about 11 percent of all trips made by these drivers occur when it is dark out," reports WGRZ in Buffalo, New York.

In 23 of the states with a graduated driver's license, the curfew begins at midnight. But nearly half the accidents occur before midnight, the CDC said.

It noted that "because nearly all of the night driving trips taken by drivers aged 16 or 17 years end before 12 a.m., (curfews) beginning at 12 a.m. or later provide minimal protection. As states examine strategies to further reduce total fatal crashes among newly licensed teen drivers, they could consider updating their (rules) to include earlier nighttime hours. The study results illustrate the importance of each state examining and balancing the unique needs for both mobility and safety of their teen population, particularly related to nighttime travel."

WGRZ said the CDC also recommends enacting other safety-promoting laws, such as primary seat belt rules and drunk driving bans.

Last fall, a series on how children die and how to keep them safe noted that "while teens account for only 8 percent of drivers overall, they are involved in 20 percent of accidents. And while the number of crashes involving teen drivers has dropped since 1996, those young drivers remain nearly twice as likely to be in a crash than older drivers."

The article added: "More tellingly: Car crashes are the No. 1 way teenagers die."
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