To address challenges related to teen driver safety, Kentucky adopted a simple graduated driver licensing (GDL) program in 1996 and further expanded it in 2006 by adding an intermediate licensing phase, requirements for supervised practice driving, and instituting restrictions on passenger age. Despite GDL programs having been adopted throughout the US, young drivers (ages 16 – 20) continue to be overrepresented in fatal crashes. In 2019, despite this segment making up roughly 5.3 percent of licensed drivers it accounted for 11.5 percent of fatal vehicle crashes (Kentucky recorded 732 crash fatalities, of which 73 involved young drivers). Although teen driver safety has improved significantly in Kentucky since 2006 the state ranks near the bottom nationally in teen driver fatalities per 10,000 licensed teen drivers. Based on an extensive literature review, survey of state transportation agencies, and an examination of recommendations issued by safety advocacy organizations, this report proposes eight best practices to further strengthen Kentucky’s GDL program: (1) mandate or incentivize parents/legal guardians to complete a driver education course; (2) increase the minimum age for obtaining an unrestricted driver’s license to 18; (3) begin nighttime driving restrictions at 10:00 pm (rather than 12:00 am); (4) minimize in-vehicle distractions by adjusting rules on the transport of passengers under the age of 20; (5) update the GDL program so it covers all drivers between the ages of 18 and 21; (6) allow the use of mobile apps to log practice driving hours; (7) offer a free decal that can be placed on the rear of a vehicle or on the license plate to indicate a novice driver is driving; and (8) partner with the Kentucky State Police to conduct routine, visible enforcement.

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