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Graduated License Laws Give Teen Drivers More Supervised Practice

Auto accidents continue to be the number 1 cause of death for teenagers. But tougher new license laws are helping turn that number around. CBS Tracy Smith has more on the issue.

Forty-six states and the District of Columbia now have graduated licensing laws that dictate when teens can start driving and how many hours a new driver has to spend practicing with an adult--like Mom or Dad--in the passenger seat. The danger here is the temptation to cut corners, and the kids aren’t always the ones who do it.

From a purely physical standpoint, teens should be perfect drivers: Their eyes are sharp, their reflexes are fast, and their hearing is clear. But teens are still more likely to get in trouble behind the wheel, especially when they’re on the road without an adult in the car.

In fact, studies show that teenagers are at the greatest risk for getting into an accident or getting a ticket during the first 500 miles that they start driving unsupervised. And many of the teens interviewed say those numbers sound real.

"How many of you know someone who got into an accident the first year they were driving?" a reporter asks a classroom of teens. All hands go up.

Like most other states, Connecticut now requires more practice with an adult in the car--at least 50 hours. Which is not to say that it’s always something kids welcome.

"There’s still so much I don’t know. I have to ask, ‘Should I go here, should I go there?’ And they tell you, but a lot of times they get really uptight… They’re more nervous than I am!" one girl says.

Still, the extra practice time seems to be working. In Ohio alone, the number of fatal teen accidents fell more than 20% after the state mandated more practice hours with parents.

But Jack Sousa, who owns a school that specializes in teaching teenagers to drive, says some parents are so anxious to see their kids get a license that they’ll lie about how much supervised driving time they’ve had.

Has he personally had encounters with parents who try to let their kids slide on the rule?

"No question about it. Happens all the time," he says.

Sousa acknowledges that social pressure to get a driver’s license as soon as possible may compel parents and teens alike to cut corners. But he urges parents to be conscientious.

"We only learn to drive once in our life. Most states don’t retest. So my advice to parents is: Do it right the first time," Sousa says.
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