As personal injury attorneys here in Baltimore, we’ve seen too articles detailing the tragic results of traffic accidents involving Maryland’s younger drivers. As adults, we can understand the difficulties involved with training and licensing first-time drivers, especially from the standpoint of inexperience and the dangers of youthful indiscretion. As driving has become a ubiquitous part of our American lifestyle, there is no practical way to increase the driving age, but many states including Maryland have instituted legislation that helps to ease teenage drivers into their driving careers with a graduated approach to licensing new drivers.
Any traffic accident that can be prevented is one that parents and family members would surely want to avoid. With the number of severe injury accidents and fatal car, truck and motorcycle collisions across our state, there is much to be said about saving our young people from possible injury or death as a result of a bad traffic wreck.
Whether one lives in Gaithersburg, Annapolis, Rockville or Washington, D.C., no doubt you or someone you know has a family member who may have been hurt in a car or commercial trucking-related roadway accident. In the best of cases, a few minor bumps or bruises may be all that the victim suffered; others may not have been that lucky. With closed-head injuries, compound fractures and spinal cord damage all potential injuries resulting from a car crash, anyone would be happy to avoid a hospital stay and subsequent physical therapy.
It’s been documented that Maryland’s graduated driver license law (also known as GDL) has contributed to a notable reduction in teenage fatalities across the state. According to reports, the Maryland GDL has been credited with limiting the number of teenagers and minors injured or killed in accidents. Based on a study coming out of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (and in cooperation with State Farm Insurance) nationwide statistics showed a marked decrease in Maryland traffic accidents involving teenagers over the past five years.
Experts point to “robust GDL laws” in states like Maryland as one of the key factors in the decrease in teenager-involved car accidents over the past several years. Here in Maryland, the GDL law known as the “Rookie Driver” program provides for a three-stage issue program. Initially a new driver can apply for a learner’s permit three months before his or her 16th birthday. During this time, the teen can only drive with a licensed driver 21 or older (who has held a full license for at least three years).
The next stage is a provisional license, followed by a full driver’s license. Maryland’s provisional license is available to qualifying drivers after nine months their learner’s permit; as well as successful completion of a driver’s ed class. (Driver’s ed includes a 60-hour practice driving component taken under the instruction of a qualified supervising driver.) With Maryland’s provisional driver’s license, anyone under the age of 18 is restricted to driving between the hours of 5am and midnight.
After driving with a provisional license (for a minimum of 18 months), the driver must be at least 18 years to qualify for his or her full license. It’s important to note that should the teen driver violate any of the stipulations in the GDL law, he or she may have their license suspended or even revoked. There may even be additional restrictions at the time of upgrading to the next level.
This graduated approach, which requires new drivers to earn their driving privilege in a stepped manner, appears to have a significant correlation to the markedly lower rates of injury and fatal car collisions among teenage drivers; something every parent should appreciate as their pre-teens approach their driving years.