Joining a moment in history through the modern web

Nearly 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a stirring speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with the words “I have a dream.” Today, we’re sharing a new way to take part in this historic moment through a web experience developed by our friends at Organic and Unit9 for the National Park Foundation.

Called “March on Washington,” the experience invites you to relive that moment in time by listening to an original recording of Dr. King’s words accompanied by immersive photography from the event itself.

One of the most powerful abilities of the web is that it connects people from all over the world in new ways. In “March on Washington,” you can also virtually join this historic event by recording yourself reciting Dr. King’s words. Then, you can play back other participants’ recordings as a crowd-sourced narrative of voices, hearing the timeless message repeated back from people all over the world.

We’re excited to see the modern web enable experiences like “March on Washington” that bring together people and history in new, powerful ways. Head over to on a laptop, phone or tablet to check it out.

(Cross-posted from the Chrome blog)

Tenth annual Code Jam competition wraps in London

Scientists at Google Labs have discovered it's not easy to be a great rock drummer. Your task is to devise an algorithm to audition drummers based on the imperfections of their rhythms.

This is the type of challenge that was posed to the finalists of our 10th annual Code Jam last week. Twenty-four of the world’s best coders were flown to London to compete for the title of Code Jam Champion 2013 and the accompanying $15,000.

Belarus's Ivan Miatselski, a.k.a. “mystic,” was crowned Champion, besting more than 45,000 other registrants and making it through four online qualifying rounds before winning the in-person finals. The final round was a four-hour, five-problem tour de code. Throughout Code Jam, contestants are allowed to use any programming language and any development environment they like, ranging from C++ to Taxi. And while the finalists are among the among the most talented, we’ve yet to see anyone earn a perfect score during the final round.

Successfully solving the problems involves more than just writing code: contestants in this year's finals needed mastery of computational geometry, dynamic programming, numerical algorithms and more. Though the competition is fierce, Code Jam is also a growing community of skilled problem-solvers, engineers and friends from all over the world. Code Jam will be back in 2014—join our community on Google+ and look for more news to come.

No Time for Complacency

Readers familiar with our work will doubtlessly know what a strong emphasis we place on understanding and improving traffic safety culture in the United States. Starting with the 2007 publication of a compendium of articles by noted scholars, professionals, and advocates, we have since conducted annual surveys of the American public in order to measure and analyze the extent to which the nation’s motorists value and actively pursue safety on our roadways. Now, for the first time, we’ve taken a multi-year look at our Safety Culture Index surveys in order to analyze trends over time.

Troublingly, our new analysis appears to show that Americans have grown less concerned about key traffic safety hazards, such as impaired, drowsy, or distracted drivers. In 2009, for example, 90 percent of our survey respondents said they believed drivers operating a vehicle after consuming alcohol posed a very serious threat to their safety. This percentage has fallen every year since, however, reaching a low of 69 percent in 2012. For drowsy driving, these respective figures fell from 71 percent in 2009 to 46 percent in 2012.
Admittedly, we can’t determine from the survey data whether people believe these dangers pose less of a threat today because they think Americans have improved their driving behaviors overall, or because fewer people think the behaviors themselves are inherently dangerous. However, with 2012 showing a 5.3 percent increase in traffic fatalities over 2011 – the first annual increase in seven years – it’s clear that now is not the time for complacency, regardless of the reasoning.

To keep pushing the needle on safety culture, the Transportation Research Board has just concluded a two-day National Roadway Safety Culture Summit, which was sponsored by the AAA Foundation and attended by about 100 members of the traffic safety community. The Summit’s goal was to identify research needs in this area and “next steps” that can be implemented in communities nationwide. The findings will ultimately inform the Toward Zero Deaths – a National Strategy on Highway Safety effort that is being developed by the traffic safety community.
We will of course continue our research and education in the area of safety culture, with our immediate next step being to complete and publish the 2013 Traffic Safety Culture Index. As in recent years, certain issue-specific findings will be available in the fall, and the full survey will be released in January. To learn more about our trends report, please click here. For information about the AAA Foundation-sponsored TRB summit, please visit this page.

HandsOn Tech: Helping nonprofits fight poverty and strengthen communities with technology

With the right technology in place, nonprofits can do a lot to strengthen their communities and solve the world’s problems. They can help improve family literacy, support veterans as they transition out of homelessness, or help communities make information more accessible. Unfortunately, nonprofits often lack the resources to fully take advantage of technology to further their causes.

Two years ago we partnered with Points of Light to address this problem. With the support of the Corporation for National and Community Service, we created HandsOn Tech, an initiative with a mission to develop the nonprofit sector’s ability to use technology to increase community resources and improve outcomes for low-income communities and families.

Fueled by the passion and skills of AmeriCorps VISTA members, HandsOn Tech pairs U.S. nonprofits with individuals who are passionate about technology and looking to make a difference. Through this program VISTA members and skilled volunteers (including many Googlers) deliver training to poverty-focused nonprofits and work one-on-one with organizations to create individualized, comprehensive tech plans to help them achieve their social missions more efficiently and effectively.

Stephenie Lai, a VISTA with HandsOn Tech Atlanta, looks on as skills-based volunteer Jon Whitaker demonstrates the new mobile version of the Cherokee Family Violence Center’s website to Meg Rogers, Executive Director. Click to see more photos.

In the first two years of the program, VISTA members and skills-based volunteers have trained more than 7,700 nonprofit organizations in communities across the country. For example, VISTAs from a HandsOn Tech program in Pittsburgh worked with Naomi’s Place (an organization that provides transitional housing and supportive services to homeless women) to enhance their website, set up Google Apps, and develop a new Facebook page. The program also helps VISTA members and volunteers learn new skills. Alex Green, who served as a VISTA in Seattle, Wash., told us: "Apart from building awareness and ability in the community in terms of IT needs, I have also had the opportunity to grow myself as a person in all aspects of my life."
HandsOn Tech Silicon Valley recruited skill-based volunteer Elyse Tager from Constant Contact to lead a training on how nonprofits can use social media to communicate their mission. Click to see more photos.

HandsOn Tech begins its third year this fall with programs in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Seattle, Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, New York City and San Jose. Prior to beginning their service, VISTA members come together for a week of training at our campus in Mountain View, Calif., where they learn about cloud-based tools from a variety of technology companies including the Google for Nonprofits suite that provides nonprofits with access to premium versions of Google Apps, Google Earth and YouTube channels as well as free online advertising.

A few openings still exist for VISTA members to begin serving in November in select cities. If you’re passionate about technology and helping nonprofits fight poverty, you can apply to join our team by August 31.

Congratulations to America’s eCities

I love to discover local gems that help make a community unique. Sometimes those gems can be around the corner—like Cafe Borrone, my favorite for Sunday brunch with my family; the food is great and even the dog is welcome on their patio. Sometimes I find those great places when I am on the road—places like Frank in Austin, Texas with their epic sausages or Boulevard Coffee in Ashland, Ore. which has great coffee and friendly people. Some of the best things I discover without even leaving home—like Casa Kids, which designs original children’s furniture from their studio in Brooklyn, N.Y., or Sticks in West Des Moines, Iowa, which sells hand-carved and hand-painted treasures.

The web helps people everywhere discover the best of what’s around the world or around the corner. Ninety-seven percent of Americans who use the Internet—pretty much all of us—look online for local products and services. So it should come as no surprise that the impact on businesses of being online is huge. According to a McKinsey study, small businesses that make use of the web are growing twice as fast as those that aren’t on the web. Just as businesses that embrace the web grow faster, communities whose businesses embrace the web grow faster as well.

Given the importance of the web in growing our local businesses and our local economies, we worked with independent research firm IPSOS to analyze the online strength of local businesses in cities and towns across America. Businesses in these communities are embracing the power of the web to find new customers, connect with existing ones and fuel their local economies. Today we’re introducing the eCity Award winners for 2013—the strongest online business communities in each state.

We hope these “digital capitals” are an inspiration to cities and businesses everywhere of what can be accomplished by embracing the web to grow.

Congratulations to the 2013 eCities of America.

Learn about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the Google Cultural Institute

This August marks the 68th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. Working together with the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, we’ve launched seven new online exhibits on the Google Cultural Institute that help tell the story of the two cities and their tragic fate.

Explore four collections from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum that illustrate the bombing from different perspectives: a pocketwatch stopped at the exact time of the detonation, diaries of young women cut off abruptly on August 6, and panoramic photos of the hauntingly barren city center days after. While most of the materials document the harrowing devastation of the bomb and its aftermath, the gallery “Recalling the Lost Neighborhoods” helps archive the old Hiroshima that vanished off the map.

Pocketwatch showing 8:15, the time of the atomic bomb drop (from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum)

The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum meanwhile curated photos, videos, and drawings in three exhibitions. One collection focuses on the famed Urakami Cathedral—the largest cathedral in East Asia where 15,000 Japanese Catholics once worshipped. The church completely collapsed after the bombing, but thanks to a post-war reconstruction effort, the Urakami Cathedral now stands triumphant as a symbol of the city’s rebirth.
Urakami Cathedral exhibition (from the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum)

Speaking at an unveiling ceremony for the exhibits in Hiroshima today, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui said, “Through the Google Cultural Institute exhibitions, we hope that people around the world would learn about the terrible experiences of the Hibakusha, or A-bomb survivors, and wish for peace.”

The Cultural Institute was created to help preserve the world's history and heritage. Given the average age of the Hibakusha is now past 78, we're honored that our digital exhibit can help keep the memories from both cities alive for the future.

Join the Hangout Comedy Club where your laugh can help change a life

The Edinburgh Fringe festival is one of the largest arts festivals in the world, where thousands of people descend upon Edinburgh to see hundreds of up-and-coming comedians and artists perform in bars, basements and venues around the city.

For those of you who have always wanted to go to the Fringe, now you can enjoy great new talent, laugh ‘til your belly hurts and even heckle a comedian from the comfort of your own home. This summer, you can be in the front row of a live comedy show wherever you are thanks to Google+ Hangouts and YouTube. While you’re at it, your laughs can raise money for a good cause.

We’re partnering with the U.K. charity Comic Relief to bring you the first online comedy club—the “Hangout Comedy Club.” We’ve created a clever gizmo called the “Laughometer,” which will measure how much you enjoy the show and turn your lol’s into an optional donation to Comic Relief. They use the funds they raise to tackle the root causes of poverty and social injustice.

To be part of the Hangout Comedy Club, simply join a Google+ Hangout hosted by one of our famous comedians, including Katherine Ryan, Sanderson Jones and Joey Page. Just like a real comedy club, if you’re brave enough, you can join the front row with up to eight others. If you’d rather sit out of sight, join a Hangout, add your friends, and watch from the safety of the back row.

The next Hangout is today, Thursday, August 15, 10pm BST with Sanderson Jones. Find out who else is starring and get your free seat at

So even if you can’t make it to the Fringe, we’ll bring the best new talent directly to you—and your laugh could help change a life.

Just ask Google for your flights, reservations, package delivery info and more

Ever had trouble checking your flight’s status on the go because it meant digging through your email for the flight number? Or wanted to just quickly see whether your package would arrive on time, without having to look up the tracking info first? You’ve told us it would be much easier if you could skip the fuss and just ask Google.

Soon you’ll be able to find this info instantly in Google Search if it’s in your Gmail, Google Calendar or Google+. For example, just ask or type, “What’s my flight status?” or “When will my package arrive?”

Over the next several days, we’ll be rolling this out to all U.S., English-speaking users on desktop, tablet and smartphone, with voice search (so you don’t have to type). Here are just a few of the time savers that will be available this week, with more to come:

  • Flights: Ask Google “Is my flight on time?” to get info on your upcoming flights and live status on your current flights.
  • Reservations: Ask for “my reservations” to see your dining plans or “my hotel” to get your hotel name and address. With one tap, you can get driving or public transit directions straight there, saving you lots of steps.
  • Purchases: Ask for “my purchases,” and you’ll get the status of your current orders, so you know whether your mom’s birthday present will arrive on time.
  • Plans: Ask Google “What are my plans for tomorrow?” to see a summary of upcoming flights, hotels, restaurant reservations and events—very useful when you’re traveling.
  • Photos: Say “Show me my photos from Thailand” to see the photos you uploaded to Google+. You can also ask for “my photos of sunsets” if you want to show off the shots you’ve taken over the year; Google will try to automatically recognize the type of photo you’re asking for.

We’ve been offering this kind of info—flights, reservations, appointments and more—for more than a year in Google Now. We’ve gotten great feedback on how convenient it is, especially when you’re on the go. Now that it’s in Google Search, you can get it anytime you need it.

This information is just for you—secure, via encrypted connection, and visible only to you when you're signed in to Google. Likewise, you can also control whether you want the service on or off. Whenever you don’t want to see it, simply click the globe icon at the top of the search results page to turn it off for that search session. To turn it off permanently, visit the "Private results" section in search settings.

We hope this makes your day a little easier. Visit our Inside Search site to learn more about the questions you can ask.

Calling all Indian social entrepreneurs: apply for the Google Impact Challenge

On the eve of India’s independence day, we’re celebrating the spirit of creativity and entrepreneurship of the world’s largest democracy by spotlighting the best local nonprofits that are using technology to make the world better.

Today we’re launching the Google Impact Challenge in India, inviting Indian nonprofits to tell us how they’d use technology to improve people’s lives. At the end of the challenge, four nonprofits will each receive a Rs 3 crore (around $500,000) Global Impact Award and technical assistance from Google to bring their projects to life.

Get started on your application today: registered Indian nonprofits can apply online until September 5 at Googlers from India, and around the world, will review applications and announce the 10 best projects on October 21. You can learn more about the top 10 finalists then, and cast a vote for who you think should receive the Fan Favorite award.

On October 31, I’ll join Ram Shriram, Jacquelline Fuller, Anu Aga and Jayant Sinha in Delhi to hear the 10 finalists pitch live. As judges, we’ll select three awardees based on their potential impact, scalability and ingenuity. We’ll also announce the winner of the Fan Favorite, according to your vote.

Growing up in India, I’ve seen firsthand the vibrancy and innovativeness of India’s social entrepreneurs. I’m excited to see their projects and support their ideas for how to use technology and Rs 3 crores to change the world.

Going off-grid with Emma Lance

By Guest Blogger Broch Bender

Combine the patience of ice fishing, a passion for puzzles, and a love for I-405 drivers that would make the @WSDOT_Traffic Twitter Fairy giggle, and you’ve got WSDOT Transportation Engineer Emma Lance.

OK, so there is no Twitter Fairy, however, magic wands and Twitter dust aside, Emma Lance is the mastermind behind the #Take5 detours you use when northbound Interstate 405 through Bellevue is closed for repairs.

“It’s easy to put pen to paper and design something,” said Emma. “It’s another thing to be accountable for keeping drivers out of lengthy backups.”

Emma and her team are traffic-busting heroes. During weekend-long pavement repair shutdowns of northbound I-405, they go where the traffic cameras can’t; patiently combing through backups so that you won’t get stuck in one.

You might be wondering, “Why does WSDOT need people on the ground when you have Twitter?” Good question. Our tweets are generated by information we see on our webcams, traffic sensors embedded in the highway, and occasionally from drivers like you.

Emma Lance
But, what happens when we close our highways completely and all the average person can see are orange barrels and crews working? And what if the detour is on local streets without cameras and sensors (hint: NE 8th St. or 116th Ave. SE in Bellevue)?  Emma says, “It’s kind of a black hole for drivers. It’s like we are telling them, go here because the highway is closed – see you on the other side!”

Last month was her first call to duty, and she’s back again this weekend, August 9 through 12 for the final roundof concrete panel replacement through downtown Bellevue.

Emma and her team are winning the traffic game by shining a light into the detour abyss. When she sees a slow spot in the road, she’s on the phone with the City of Bellevue so they can adjust traffic signal timing before you can say “red light, green light 1-2-3!,” An extra few seconds of “green” time on a traffic light can make a huge difference. And, if the signals suddenly stop working, Ms. Lance is on the horn to the Washington State Patrol so they can direct traffic.

When drivers enter the “detour black hole,” there is no real way to tell what the detour travel time is.
In the past we’ve literally watched cars exit the ramp to the detour and watched the on-ramp hoping to find the same car and timing how long it took them. That’s ok, but not too reliable. Emma’s got wheels on the ground and stopwatch on the dash, rolling through the detours all day long, timing how long it takes from start to finish. Every 30 minutes she contacts the WSDOT traffic tweeters with her findings.  Bottom line: Ms. Lance is a big reason drivers get the latest, most accurate detour travel times possible all weekend long.

Just like any superstar, Emma is motivated to use her congestion-busting powers for good. Since the beginning of her WSDOT career in 2007, she’s specialized in planning out highways that coexist with fish habitat and Bellevue’s growing metropolis. “It’s a challenge trying to balance tight budgets with high environmental standards,” she said. “But it’s totally worth all of the effort to have state of the art highways side by side with nature, instead of having to choose between them.”

During the first round of I-405 pavement repair closures back in July, she noticed drivers were getting stuck at the NE 8th Street area trying to get onto I-405. This time around her advice is to avoid NE 8th Street and instead use other arterials to go north. “You’ll save yourself a nice chunk of time.”
When our best “traffic-un-jammer” is not designing construction projects, detailing detours or out saving drivers from traffic fatigue, you can find her honing her patience and fortitude over jigsaw puzzles, fishing for walleye and being a favorite aunt to her niece.

SR 520 Bridge 50th Birthday

August 2013 marks the 50th birthday of the SR 520 floating bridge on Lake Washington. Throughout the month we’re taking a look back at the history of the bridge, as well as the places it connects and the people who use it.

The Evergreen Point Bridge, its original name when it opened five decades ago (and before it was named for former governor Albert D. Rossellini), was built in a different era. Prior to 520, drivers had just one crossing across Lake Washington – the original Lake Washington Floating Bridge. And prior to that, you either drove around or hitched a ride on one of many ferries traversing the lake. Today’s quick trek across the lake was once a day’s (or more!) journey.

520 construction began in 1960, lasted through the 1962 World’s Fair, and opened on Aug. 28, 1963, the same day as Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C.

Aerial view of west approach bridge construction in 1962. Bridge piers were built in Lake Washington prior to adding the superstructure and roadway. Photo credit: City of Seattle Municipal Archives
Each winter, significant wind and wave action takes its toll on the existing SR 520 floating bridge, requiring WSDOT to perform regular inspections and maintenance.
Over the next 50 years, the 520 bridge has been through a lot. It’s endured decades of winter storms and wave action and closes for safety when sustained winds reach 50 mph. The 1993 Inaugural Day storm ravaged Puget Sound with winds reaching 94 mph and closed the bridge for several days. It’s been tolled, untolled, and tolled once again. It’s been hit by a barge. It’s had cables strung through its pontoons for additional post-tensioning.

During the 2008 Seafair Marathon, thousands of runners crossed the SR 520 floating bridge, filling its two eastbound lanes to capacity.
But through it all, the bridge’s work ethic remains strong. SR 520 is still the world’s longest floating bridge, and it still carries thousands more cars per day than it was designed to accommodate in the 1960s. Sometimes it even takes a break from car traffic: 520 hosted the Seafair Marathon in 2008!

Retirement is the next step, as crews continue work to assemble the new SR 520 floating bridge on Lake Washington, featuring a bicycle/pedestrian path, new transit/HOV lanes, and wider, safer shoulders.

This visualization of the new SR 520 floating bridge looking east shows the bridge’s new transit/HOV lanes, bicycle/pedestrian path, wider shoulders, and sentinel architectural features.
The new floating bridge’s opening is on the horizon, and the bridge is expected to serve the region for 75 years or more. While it’s never easy seeing one’s replacement come onboard, today’s bridge can rest assured that it will be remembered and celebrated as a vital connection across decades of growth and development in the region.

Happy Birthday, SR 520 Bridge!

Those are our memories. What are yours? We’d love to hear from you. Hitch a ride on 520 Memory Lane to share your fondest 520 memory as a story, poem, photo or video. We’ll be posting them regularly throughout the month of August.

Dude, where’s my phone? Simple steps to protect your Android device this summer.

This summer we’re posting regularly with privacy and security tips. Knowing how to stay safe and secure online is important, which is why we created our Good to Know site with advice and tips for safe and savvy Internet use. -Ed.

With summer vacation in full swing, you’re likely out and about, using your smartphone or tablet to get answers on the go or check out the latest cool apps and games. But you don’t have to leave safety at home! In this post, we’re sharing a few tips and tools that you can easily set up if you’re on an Android phone or tablet to keep your device—and the contents inside—safe and secure, including a new service that makes it easy to locate a misplaced device.

1. Lock your device screen. Whether you’re on a phone or a tablet, it’s easy to set up a screen lock. This is important to do in case your device gets left in the back of a car, or you’re worried about someone picking up your phone and scrolling through your stuff. You can lock your device with a pin, password, pattern (or even your face!) by going to Settings > Personal > Security > Screen Lock.

2. Protect your phone from suspicious apps. We automatically scan Google Play to block and remove harmful apps. That makes Google Play the safest place to get Android apps. But Google Play can also help protect you even for apps you get elsewhere, like the web or a third-party app store. The first time you start to install an app from an unknown source, a message will pop up asking if you’d like Google to scan the file to make sure it’s not harmful. Tap “OK” to let Google help protect you from harmful apps.

3. Locate, ring and wipe a misplaced device. Have you ever lost your phone in between the couch cushions or left it in a restaurant? Later this month, you will be able to use a new service called Android Device Manager, which can quickly ring your phone at maximum volume so you can find it (even if it’s been silenced), or locate it on a map, in real time, using Android Device Manager. If your phone can’t be recovered, or has been stolen, you can quickly and securely erase all of the data on your device to keep your data from ending up in the wrong hands. The Android Device Manager will be available for devices running Android 2.2 and above, as part of Google Play. You can read the full announcement on the Android blog.
For more advice on how to protect yourself and your family online, visit our Good to Know site, and stay tuned for more posts in our security series.

Help inspire the next generation of technology creators: Apply for a 2014 RISE Award

Inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers is crucially important—breakthroughs don't happen without people to make them. We want students to not just be consumers of technology, but also creators of it; to enrich not only their own lives, but those of their communities. That's the motivation behind the Google RISE (Roots in Science and Engineering) Awards.

Given once a year, Google RISE Awards are designed to promote and support education initiatives to increase engagement in science and technology, especially computer science. Google grants awards of $15,000 - $50,000 USD to non-for-profit organizations around the world working to expand access to these fields for K-12/Pre-University students, specifically girls and underrepresented groups.

In 2013, 30 organizations received RISE grants—with projects ranging from robotics contests in Germany to programming challenge days for girls in New Zealand. In June, we brought all of our partners together for a Global Summit. It was an inspiring meeting, and since the Summit several organizations have begun to work together to expand their reach.

For example, our RISE partners in Nigeria, WAAW Foundation and W-TEC, have teamed up to organize a one-week residential Advanced STEM Camp. The program launched this week and will provide 27 public school girls exposure to robotics. Over in Argentina, an organization already connecting Belgium to Argentina is is now collaborating with another on programming workshops for students and teachers. And organizations in Liberia and India are sharing resources to overcome common challenges in access to technology for girls.
The hard work of RISE organizations has also drawn support from leading figures such as President Obama, Ireland’s Taoiseach Enda Kenny and HRH Prince Andrew.

We’re looking for more organizations to partner with in 2014. Submit your application by September 30, 2013. You can submit your application in English, French, Japanese, Russian or Spanish; all eligible countries are listed on our website. Show us what you can do to get students excited about STEM and CS!

License to Wait

If you were anything like me as a teenager, you’ll likely be as surprised as I was by the findings of our latest study, just released today. When I was 16, getting my driver’s license was my top priority, and I still remember thinking that a winter storm that postponed my road test by six weeks was absolutely devastating. But a new AAA Foundation survey of 18- 20-year-olds has found that less than half (just 44%) of American teens get their license within a year of their home state’s age of eligibility, and barely half (54%) get it by the time they turn 18!

The study offers evidence supporting a general perception that teens have been voluntarily delaying licensure in recent years; it also examines what some of the reasons for this delay might be. With graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems now placing some combination of driving restrictions (such as passenger limits, late-night prohibitions, etc.) on teens in all states, a big question was whether young drivers simply wanted to wait to get their license until these provisions were lifted (generally age 18, except in New Jersey). In other words, are the three tiers of GDL (learner’s permit, restricted license, full licensure) so undesirable that teens are willing to avoid it?

It turns out that the reasons for delayed licensure generally pertain more to economic considerations, busy schedules, and simple lack of interest. In fact, the biggest reasons cited for not getting a license were not having a car (44%), an ability to get around without driving (39%), cost of gas and cost overall (36% each), and “just didn’t get around to it” (35%). Fewer than one in four cited reasons related to GDL.

Even if GDL isn’t the reason for the delay, however, it is troubling that more than a third (at least 36%) of novice drivers today get licensed outside of the protective GDL system because of the delay. A recent Foundation literature review highlighted the lifesaving achievements of graduated licensing, which has been credited with reductions of 20-40 percent in 16-year-old driver crashes, and a 6-19 percent drop in crashes of 17-year-old drivers. Yet with the three-tiered system generally “expiring” once a teen turns 18, license delay for any reason can result in a significant number of novices missing out on this highly effective system.

More research is clearly needed to investigate the effects that GDL might have on older novice driver (ages 18-20, e.g.) safety, and to examine how the age at which a teen gets licensed impacts crash rates. To this end, we’ve initiated a project to study the crash rates of teens by age at licensure in three states: North Carolina and California, which do not have comprehensive GDL for older novices, and New Jersey, which does. You can read more about this project here.

Summer is the deadliest season for teens on the road, so this is a particularly poignant time to consider the results of this study. To learn more about it, please visit the project page. And, as always, please continue to drive safely all summer long.