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Some states have graduated licensing programs that limit teenage drivers, barring them from the roads at night. These programs have proven successful in curbing car accidents among young people, and a new study finds they seem to also lower teen crime.
Notably, states that have had these programs in place for the longest time have seen the biggest drops in teen crime. The study's authors suggest that more states should consider the connection between night driving, crime, and violence for the safety of teens and adults alike. Let's connect the dots.
Two independent researchers got the idea to measure the connection between teen crime and driving restrictions. One, Dr. Monica Deza, is an economics professor at the University of Texas at Dallas School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences. The other researcher, Daniel Litwok of the firm Abt Associates, is in the private sector. Both got identical results in their research and when they realized this, pooled their findings, published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.
"Being able to drive or having friends who can drive is the difference between going out and staying home on a Saturday night," Deza said. "It seemed intuitive to us that having a curfew on driving hours affected the probability that teenagers would get themselves into trouble."
They looked then at the FBI's Uniform Crime Report arrest data from 1995 to 2011 and compared arrests of 16- and 17-year-olds to arrests of young adults ages 18 and older in states with new driver nighttime restrictions. What they found was that, overall, arrests of the younger teens decreased by 4 to 6 percent and in states with the strictest laws declined by 5 to 8 percent.The biggest crime reductions were in states with graduated license programs in place the longest.
What is perhaps most surprising about the study's findings is the type of crime that nighttime driving restrictions for teens helped prevent -- including violent crimes. The types of crimes most affected by nighttime restrictions were reportedly manslaughter, murder, and larceny.
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