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Young driver licensing and COVID-19
  1. Johnathon P Ehsani1,
  2. Neale Kinnear2
  1. 1 Department of Health Policy and Management, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  2. 2 TRL UK, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Johnathon P Ehsani, Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA; johnathon.ehsani{at}

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This commentary examines the available evidence of the safety benefit for current approaches to driver education and licensing for teenagers, and describes a number of promising alternatives that could complement existing approaches pre-licensure. These include strengthening graduated driver licensing requirements during the learner permit stage, validating online driver education, and introducing hazard perception training. During the licensing phase, driver testing could include hazard perception testing and be supplemented by simulated driving to screen teenagers who are likely to fail the behind the wheel test. Post-licensure, parent-teen driving agreements and driver monitoring technologies represent two underutilized, but potentially effective interventions to reduce teenagers’ crash risk during independent driving. As states consider changes to the driver education and licensing process in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, policy makers and practitioners could take the opportunity to update their policies and implement state-of-the-art approaches to prevent motor crashes, which persist as the leading cause of death for young people.

Shortly after the first cases of the COVID-19 in the USA, a number of US states, including Georgia, Wisconsin, and Texas, suspended the on-road driving test for teenagers to obtain a driver’s license.1 This extraordinary measure allowed teenagers who had fulfilled the practice driving requirements of the learner permit stage to obtain a license to drive independently, despite the closure of licensing agencies due to the pandemic. While the suspension of the driving test may have been a short-lived measure, the ongoing risks of transmission of COVID-19 raises questions about the future of the test and more broadly about current approaches to the driver education and licensing process. If the driving test was to be removed from the licensing process for a longer term, how can the safety of new teen drivers (and those they share the road with) be ensured? As multiple states …

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  • Contributors JPE drafted the editorial. NK provided critical review and edited the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not received funding for this work.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.