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Evaluating the effects of NC’s teen driver cell phone restriction

The Center for the Study of Young Drivers (CSYD) is examining the effects of a new restriction in North Carolina that prohibits cell phone use by drivers under the age of 18. The new restriction, which was passed by the NC Legislature earlier this year and is part of the North Carolina graduated driver licensing system, takes effect on December 1, 2006.

Funded by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the project will involve the observation of thousands of teen drivers both before and after the new restriction takes effect to measure the extent to which the restriction influences teens’ use of cell phones while driving. In addition, the researchers are interviewing several hundred teens and their parents to examine awareness of the new restriction, how strongly parents and teens support or oppose it, and the degree to which parents enforce it for their teens. Results from the study are expected by late Spring 2007.

Center researchers have also studied the effects of another type of distraction for teen drivers – passengers. Research findings showed that a young driver with two or more passengers in the vehicle has more than twice the risk of being involved in a serious crash, compared with having no passengers at all. This finding contributed to a change of the North Carolina GDL system to include a limit on the number of young passengers allowed to ride with an inexperienced teen driver. Analyses indicate that multiple passenger crashes have declined by 32% among 16 year-old drivers and by 15% among 17 year-old drivers since the passenger restriction was enacted.

The UNC Highway Safety Research Center established the CSYD in 2006 to study and improve the safety of young drivers. The new Center’s focus is on developing a fundamental understanding of the multitude of factors that contribute to the high crash rate among young drivers. For more information on the Center and its research, please visit http://www.hsrc.unc.edu/safety_info/young_drivers/csyd.cfm.

The University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center
730 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Suite 300  |  Campus Box 3430  |  Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3430
Phone: 919.962.2203  |  Fax: 919.962.8710