Teen Drivers Now Using Graduated Driver’s License
Licensing requirements for teen drivers vary from state to state but in the last few years 46 states and the District of Columbia have agreed that a graduated driver’s license (GDL) program is a great means of ensuring that young drivers are slowly introduced to driving on their own. But what is a graduated driver’s license and how does it help keep teen drivers safe?
What is a Graduated Driver’s License (GDL)?
A graduated driver’s license is a bit of a misnomer. It sounds like a type of license, but really, it is a type of licensing program aimed at teen drivers. The program may vary slightly depending on the state in which you reside, but the goals are the same: gradually introduce young drivers to driving solo. Instead of allowing teen drivers to get a learners permit and then be granted a full license (typically within the course of a single year), the graduated driver’s license program requires young drivers to gain more experience of a period of time and limits their driving rights until they have had time to learn the skills necessary to become a good driver and to drive safely on their own.
An example of the rules for a graduated driver’s license program might look something like this:
- At 15 years and 6 months of age, a state resident may qualify for a learner’s permit
- At 16 years and 6 months of age, a state resident may qualify for a restricted license
- The driver must acquire 45 hours of supervised driving time, 15 of which must be at night.
- Driving is prohibited between the hours of 10pm and 5am (for example)
To see the rules for restricted licenses and the graduated driver’s license program for your state, check out this handy chart on the IIHS official website.
How does a Graduated Driver’s License Program keep Teen Drivers Safe?
Many, if not most of us, grew up without having to participate in a graduated driver’s license program. They’re fairly new, but they’ve been put in place in response to high rates of fatal car crashes involving teen drivers that have been documented since the 1980’s. While many safe driving programs have made a positive impact on lowering the rate of accidents involving teen drivers, research showed that there were several common issues at the core of these accidents—the most common of which was inexperience, particularly in terms of specific driving situations such as night driving or driving in bad weather.
The graduated driver’s license program is aimed at making sure young drivers are getting the training required to handle these situations. It also restricts their rights to drive during times when teens are most likely to be involved in car accidents. The program has shown great promise for reducing the number of teen driving fatalities simply by controlling when new drivers can be on the roads.
One study showed that prohibiting nighttime driving reduced the number of teen driver accidents during those hours by 10% and reduced the chances of a teen driver being involved in a crash associated with (underage) drinking and driving by 13%. The study also showed that laws restricting the number of teen passengers in a vehicle with a teen driver reduced car accidents involving young drivers by 9%.
Several studies have shown that graduated driver’s license laws are most effective at reducing the number of drinking and driving related deaths among teen drivers. While there is some impact, the laws do less to prevent speed related car accidents among young drivers.
To learn more about the effects of graduated driver’s license laws, visit the National Institutes of Health website.
Why aren’t the laws more effective?
Graduated driver’s license programs are only as effective as enforcement permits. In most states, violation of probationary driving regulations is set as secondary enforcement. This means the driver must be stopped for another offense before there will be any repercussion related to their driver’s license status.
Additionally, for the graduated driver’s license program to be more successful, it would require more involvement from parents. While it’s believed that most parents do follow the rules and provide the necessary amount of driving supervision and accurately log hours behind the wheel, it stands to reason that not all parents do. This means that some teen drivers won’t be following the law and that limits the amount of success these laws can achieve.
Why Are Graduated Driver’s License Restrictions Different by State?
GDL laws vary by state for a number of reasons. Much of it has to do with school hours and teen employment rates. While the GDL program aims to keep teen drivers safe, the impact of such laws must be weighed in terms of how the communities in which the laws will be implemented operate.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, no one state has implemented all of the elements of what they consider to be a complete graduated driver’s license program. Still, the versions of the program that exist are making a positive impact in terms of driver safety among young drivers.
Teen Driver Safety
Looking for more ways to help keep your teen driver safe? Check out our article on teen driving safety.