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Teenagers are more likely to die from car crashes than anything else. That's why states limit when beginners can drive. But a new study suggests current restrictions on nighttime driving don't go far enough to save lives. NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce has details.
NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE: Driving after dark is more dangerous than driving during the day, especially for teens.
RUTH SHULTS: They're inexperienced drivers. They just don't have the experience driving at night.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Ruth Shults is an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. She says every state except Vermont puts limits on teens' nighttime driving.
SHULTS: They restrict the hours that a young person can drive at night when they're nearly licensed if they don't have an adult in the car.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Recently, she and a colleague decided to look at when teen drivers generally drive and how that lines up with state night driving restrictions.
SHULTS: We found that even though most of their driving takes place in the daytime, about a third of their fatal crashes occur at night.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: And when they looked at those nighttime crashes, they found that more than half took place before midnight. But here's the thing.
SHULTS: Twenty-three states begin their nighttime restriction at midnight or later.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: So she says if states are looking for a way to improve teen driver safety...
SHULTS: They could consider updating their nighttime driving restrictions to include earlier hours - for example, 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: The study is described in the latest issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, and its findings don't surprise Chuck Farmer. He's a researcher with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit funded by auto insurers. His group recommends a teen driving curfew of 8 p.m.
CHUCK FARMER: They can still drive with a parent in the car, so they can get used to it, but don't toss them out there right away in the darkness.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: He says over the last two decades, as states have adopted laws aimed at gradually introducing beginners to driving, teen deaths from crashes have dropped dramatically. But he thinks lawmakers need to do even better.
FARMER: It's good that states put in these night driving restrictions, but they're not tough enough.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: He points out that if you're a parent, you don't need to wait. You can issue new nighttime driving restrictions all on your own. Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR News.
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