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The Tough Love of the Teenage and Adult Driver Responsibility Act

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            Death reaches every society through many forms; in the United States, automobiles and other motor vehicles cause staggering numbers of fatalities each year. State and federal governments publish tragic casualty statistics annually. These governments simultaneously create programs that attempt to decrease vehicle related fatalities in the nation. One well known program includes the recent “click it or ticket” mobilization, now enforced in many states. Another program, instituted as a law in the state of Georgia in 1997, aims at a goal of early prevention. This program, specifically know as the “Teenage and Adult Driving Responsibility Act” (TADRA), reaches out to the young adults learning the rules and responsibilities of the road.

            TADRA creates a scaffolding process for adolescents, allowing them to build or “graduate” their driving privileges from permit, to an intermediate license, and finally to a full license for drivers. The process appears simple but many things, including academic institutions, create obstacles that adolescents must come to terms with in order to attain their drivers licenses. Not to mention that the individuals participating in TADRA must keep themselves in good social standing with the local law enforcement. TADRA as a whole, provides a  structure for young adults to learn the responsibilities of driving, while also creating motivation to maintain good academic and social standing.

            Implementation of the graduated license program of TADRA in Georgia seeks to reduce teenage driver traffic fatalities as well as to promote greater attendance in schools. Part of the TADRA act required that the state schools, both public and private, report any student violations of the school codes of conduct that would prevent them from obtaining a driving permit or license. The TADRA act became known as a process of “tough love” where adolescents had to actively earn their driving privileges over time. The provisions of the act foster both responsible driving and responsible behavior.

            During the first step of TADRA, teenagers must learn the basic rules of the road and prove that they have mastered the material by passing a written exam. Adolescents are eligible to begin the TADRA program as early as the age of fifteen. Upon successful completion of the written test the individuals may receive their driving permit. The permit granted under the TADRA act includes specific rules that state permit drivers must be accompanied by adult drivers age twenty-one or older who have a full license. When adequate supervised driving hours have accrued the permit driver has the opportunity to obtain an intermediate license. Requiring the individuals with driving permits to only drive in the presence of an experienced elder helps to eliminate some of the reckless behaviors that novice drivers may exhibit. This preventative measure may offer for newcomers many valuable road tips about various driving environments. It also helps to keep other motorists on the road safe from haphazard decisions made by unsupervised drivers.

            Similarly, while driving with an intermediate license, adolescents must adhere to another set of rules. Some of these rules include limitations such as: drivers cannot drive between the hours of 12:00am to 6:00am, no non-family members should be passengers of a intermediate driver for the first six months, then no more than three non-family members under the age of twenty-one should be passengers until the driver has a full license. If the driver has completed all of the required forty hours of supervised driving, six of which occur during night time hours they may be eligible for a full privilege driving license (State of Georgia Department of Driver Services 2006).

            Accordingly, if adolescent drivers have completed all the necessary requirements in a timely and responsible manner they can receive their full driver’s license at the age of eighteen. However, if any violations have been made in the twelve months prior to application the driver’s eligibility can diminish completely. Such infringements can include DUI, evading law enforcement, reckless driving, hit and run accidents, and to the surprise of some students in Georgia, excessive absences from school. Some of these measures prevent irresponsible drivers from obtaining their license, others prevent those students with poor attendance from receiving their driving privileges.

            While the TADRA act can provide a sensible driving environment for teens to learn about the responsibilities of driving, new education reform acts in Georgia have had serious impacts on adolescent’s abilities to obtain permits and licenses. Reforms occurring from 2000 to 2005 have brought down an iron fist on the Department of Education in Georgia, making it responsible for recording and reporting students who have shown non-compliance to the TADRA requirements of school attendance and responsible social behavior. Non-compliant students include those who have missed ten unexcused days of school per academic year; those who have threatened or caused harm to any school personnel; those who have been caught with the possession of weapons, drugs or other illegal substances on school grounds; and those who have committed prohibited sexual offenses. Reports of all non-compliant student activity get sent to the Department of Driver Services office, which can lead to serious consequences. First, the individuals eligibility for permits and licenses may be revoked, or those with licenses may find their driving privileges suspended.

            Incidentally, the crack down on student’s academic responsibility has spurred the refusal or suspension of nearly 11,500 student’s drivers licenses in the 2005 school year. 70% of those suspensions came from excessive absences alone. This number may have even climbed higher, but certain flaws in the recording system that some schools utilize create inaccuracies. Other infractions that lead to the suspension of student’s driving privileges in 2005 include drug and weapon possession and discipline problems. In order for students to regain their privileges they must turn eighteen year old or have twelve consecutive months of a clear record. The requirements give students new motives for good behavior in school and in the community.

            Even with the best of intentions, the TADRA act does not prevent all crashes. However, many improvements have come from its five and a half year implementation. These improvements include:

  • There was a 36.8 percent decrease in the rate of driver fatal crashes for 16 year olds.
  • Post enactment, the fatal crash rate for Georgia drivers aged 16 was only 12.8 percent higher than the rate of fatal crashes involving Georgia drivers aged 25 and above.
  • Unsafe and illegal speed related fatal crashes involving 16 year old drivers declined nearly 42 percent.
  • With the exception of 18 year old drivers, fatal crash rates declined in all age groups below age 25 Georgians who turned 16 after enactment of TADRA (and reached the age of 21 in 2002) experienced a fatal crash rate 38 percent lower than that recorded by 21 year old drivers in 1997–the year that TADRA went into effect.
  • Georgia drivers who turned 21 in 2002 and were subsequently involved in a fatal crash were less likely to have a prior record of speeding, less likely to have been convicted of DUI, and less likely to have a license suspended for hazardous driving than Georgia drivers who turned 21 in 1997. These observations suggest, but do not prove, that TADRA has lasting effects on driver behavior. (Georgia Govenor’s Office of Highway Safety 2006)

            In comparison, the FARS System reports that despite the TADRA act, crashes in the state seem to continually rise. TADRA may provide a structure for young adults to learn the responsibilities of driving. It may even be creating motivation to maintain good academic and social standing. However, there still exist many unforeseeable circumstances contributing to increased motor vehicle accidents in the state of Georgia.

State of Georgia Recorded Crashes 1997-2004 from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)

Year 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997
Crashes 1,634 1,603 1,524 1,647 1,541 1,508 1,568 1,577

References

Dallas, R. F. (2006). Tough Love: An Evaluation of Georgia’s TADRA Graduated Drivers        License Law. Georgia Govenor’s Office of Highway Safety 2006. Accessed online June          1st, 2006 at http://www.gahighwaysafety.org/tadrasuccess2005.html

Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) Web-Based Encyclopedia. Online query (June 3rd, 2006): Georgia crashes and victims 1997 – 2005. General access link: http://www-            fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/

Jones, A. & Vogell, H. (May 2006). Georgia truants keep driving. The Atlanta Journal-  Constitution. Accessed online June 1st, 2006 at          http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/0523hooky.html

McCaffrey, S. (May, 2006). 11,000 Ga. Teens Lose Licenses. Provided by The Associated Press.          Accessed online June 2nd, 2006 at          http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/0523hooky.html

Office of the Governor, Georgia State Capitol (March 22nd, 2005). Governor Perdue Announces           Drop in Teen Driving Fatalities. Accessed online June 1st, 2006 at           http://www.gov.state.ga.us/press/2005/press730.shtml

State of Georgia Department of Driver Services (2006). Teenage & Adult Driver Responsibility            Act (TADRA). Accessed online June 1st, 2006 at           http://www.dds.ga.gov/teens/DLdata.aspx?con=1748259861&ty=ten

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