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Stricter laws might reduce aggressive driving in young males: study

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(HealthDay News) -- Stricter laws and more severe penalties for extreme speeding and aggressive driving appear to have dramatically reduced the number of speeding-related deaths and injuries among young men, a new study finds.

Researchers assessed the impact of the new laws introduced by the province of Ontario in Canada in autumn 2007. Drivers caught going 31 mph or more over the speed limit or engaging in racing or other types of dangerous driving can have their licenses suspended on the spot and their cars impounded for seven days.

If convicted, they also face a $2,000 to $10,000 fine, license suspension for up to two years or six demerit points, and up to six months in jail. Penalties are even more severe with a second conviction.

The team at the University of Western Ontario analyzed provincial government data and found that after the new laws were introduced, speeding-related injuries and death among males aged 16 to 24 fell by about 58 a month.

That means that the number of young males injured or killed in speeding-related crashes declined by about 700 a year since the new rules were introduced.

From the time the new rules took effect and the end of 2011, more than 24,000 drivers' licenses were suspended. The license suspension rate among male drivers ages 16 to 24 was 1.21 percent, compared with 0.37 percent for male drivers ages 25 to 64, 0.21 percent for female drivers ages 16 to 24, and 0.07 percent for female drivers ages 25 to 64.

"First of all we looked at males and females, and then we looked at younger and older individuals because we know from my earlier research, that street racing and extreme speeding is an activity that typically younger males are more likely to engage in," study author Evelyn Vingilis, a professor in family medicine, and epidemiology and biostatistics, said in a university news release.

"What we found was a substantial reduction in the number of convictions for extreme speeding for males, and no change for females because they were pretty low anyway. And importantly, we found a significant decrease in the number of motor vehicle casualties of males 16 to 24 -- quite a significant reduction."

The results show that strict laws and severe penalties likely discourage dangerous driving, Vingilis said. The study wasn't designed to conclusively prove that the laws were directly responsible for the changes in driving behavior, though the association between those factors is strong.

The findings were published online recently in the journals Accident Analysis & Prevention and Traffic Injury Prevention.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about motor vehicle safety.

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