nsurers are lauding Congressional members who last week passed a major transportation bill that includes a grant program incentivizing stronger state laws for new drivers.
The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, Part II, also known as HR 4348, is awaiting final approval from President Barack Obama after passing by a 74-19 vote on Friday. Part of the bill expands funds available to states adopting more comprehensive laws for graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs that gradually roll back restrictions on new motorists as they become more familiar with driving.
State Farm officials said the bill’s grant expansion will push states toward strengthening GDL laws that cut into the number of deaths among teen drivers. The age group is the most likely to be involved or killed in car crashes, according to federal research.
“Strong GDL laws gradually and systematically expose teens to more complex driving situations, ultimately reducing their crash risk,” Chris Mullen, State Farm director of technology research, said in a statement in which the insurer praised members of Congress for passing the bill.
States enforcing “strong” GDL systems reduce crashes among teen drivers by up to 38 percent, according to State Farm.
In a statement, Allstate president Thomas Wilson called the bill’s passage a “major step forward” in reducing the number of deaths among teenage drivers, citing research that showed GDL programs cut teen driver fatalities by up to 40 percent.
“This legislation will provide incentives to states to ensure this research is fully considered in the establishment of their GDL standards,” Wilson said.
Allstate is part of a coalition of safety advocates, health care organizations and insurers behind the Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection (STANDUP) Act that seeks to standardize GDL programs across the U.S.
In May, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) debuted an “online calculator” that analyzed reductions in car crashes and fatalities that each state could see if they adopted different GDL provisions.
A GDL program enforcing the toughest provisions, including granting driving permits to 16-year-olds and requiring 65 hours of supervised practice, would save 500 lives and prevent 9,500 crashes a year if implemented across the U.S., according to the calculator.
An average of 4,000 teenagers die in car crashes every year, according to the STANDUP campaign.
Parents who want to get cheap auto insurance for their teenager will find that the habits exposed by the aforementioned research drives up the price of insurance premiums. Insurers want to cover their risk against motorists with higher risks of crashing and filing claims, so teens usually see higher price tags for policies.
However, HR 4348 may have insurance implications for teenagers over time if stronger GDL laws have the effect expected from safety advocates and insurers and the number of crashes falls among teenage drivers.