The University Record, July 23, 1996

Michigan motorists support stricter licensing requirements

Nearly one-half of drivers surveyed say they exceed the 65-mile-per-hour speed limit

Photo by Bob Kalmbach

By Bernie DeGroat
News and Information Services


More than three-fourths of Michigan motorists favor a graduated licensing system for teen-age and older drivers, and about 90 percent say that teens and the elderly should take a road test to obtain a driver's license, according to a U-M traffic safety survey.

In addition, nearly two-thirds believe that a curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. for drivers under age 18 is a good idea, the study shows.

"Our results indicate support for policies that restrict driving privileges of potentially troublesome drivers," says researcher Lidia Kostyniuk of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). "The support for graduated driver licensing for teen-age drivers and curfews for drivers under 18 has been on the rise since 1992."

In a graduated licensing system, she says, beginning drivers would move from one level of driving privilege to another based on increased driving skill and experience. Likewise, older motorists would be required to take more frequent driving tests to identify driving-related problems, which could gradually reduce their amount and type of driving if their ability declines.

The Michigan Omnibus Traffic Safety Survey, conducted last summer, polled more than 800 Michigan adults on their attitudes, perceptions and behaviors on issues such as licensing requirements, speeding habits, drunk driving, safety-belt use, road conditions and enforcement of safety laws.

In addition to stricter driver licensing requirements for teens and the elderly, the study found that nearly 70 percent of Michigan residents favor impounding vehicles owned by drivers whose licenses are under suspension.

"A majority of respondents indicated that the problem of driving with suspended licenses is either somewhat or very serious," Kostyniuk says. "There was strong support for all three methods of keeping drivers with suspended licenses off the road---impounding the vehicles, confiscating the vehicle license plate and locking the vehicles owned by such persons with a tire boot or steering wheel lock."

Although nearly all Michigan drivers say that traffic safety is very important, more than 90 percent say they drive at least as fast as the current 55-mph speed limit on urban freeways and nearly one-half report exceeding 65 mph on rural highways, the survey shows. Almost one-half of urban freeway drivers and more than one-third of those on rural highways believe they will not be stopped by police unless they exceed posted speeds by at least 10 mph.

According to Kostyniuk, nearly one-half of the survey respondents say there should be more police patrolling the roads, and more than two-thirds say that police patrols are more effective than stricter laws in influencing their driving behavior.

While nearly two-thirds of Michigan drivers say that speeding is the traffic law violated most often, drunk driving is considered by motorists to be the most serious offense, she says. Roughly 35 percent of residents think that drunk driving is a "very serious" problem in their community, and about 60 percent say that it is unlikely that a drunk driver would be pulled over by police.

On the other hand, the study found that about 80 percent of drivers believe that there is at least a good chance of receiving a ticket for failing to use a safety belt, which is reportedly "always" worn by about 70 percent of drivers and used "most of the time" by another 18 percent.

Finally, nearly one-half of the respondents report that Michigan freeways are in average condition, while one-third say that they are in poor condition and about one-fifth think that they are in good condition. Drivers are evenly split between reporting major roads to be in average or poor condition, while about one-fifth say that they are in good condition.

In addition to Kostyniuk, other UMTRI researchers who contributed to the study include Fredrick Streff, Lisa Molnar and Michelle Hopp. It was sponsored by the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning.