What is Graduated Drivers Licensing?
Graduated Drivers Licensing, or GDL, is a three-stage approach to granting young drivers full license privileges. Most states have some form of GDL laws in place. Generally, the three stages of GDL are:
Supervised learning period. A young driver, after passing a qualifying test, is granted a learner's permit. The new driver is allowed to drive only with a supervising adult in the car for a given period of time or minimum number of hours before earning an intermediate license.
Intermediate license. At this stage, the driver has earned a license and no longer needs supervision to drive, but is subject to restrictions, such as a curfew, no cell phone, or the number of passengers allowed in the car. Restrictions vary from state to state.
Full-Priviledge license. The driver meets the age and any other requirements to earn an unrestricted drivers license. Requirements vary from state to state.
Click here for details about GDL from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Most American teenagers are delaying getting their drivers licenses, according to an August 2013 study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. According to the report, fewer than half (44 percent) of teens get their license within 12 months of the minimum age for licensing in their state. About half (54 percent) were licensed before their 18th birthday. Two decades ago, more than two-thirds of teens had drivers licenses by the time they turned 18. Among the reasons given for the delay were that gas and other driving costs were too expensive (36 percent each); they could get around without driving (39 percent); and they did not have a car (44 percent).
The latest State Farm survey found that teen drivers and their parents have widely different view of teens' compliance with GDL laws. The survey, released in September 2013, found 87 percent of parents think teens will obey GDL laws but that only 56 percent of teens think they will. 65 percent of parents say they keep track of teen passengers, while only 27 percent of teens say they do. 82 percent of parents say their teens almost always obey texting laws, while 72 percent of teens say they do.
State GDL Laws: Colorado | New Mexico | Utah | Wyoming
Graduated Drivers Licensing FAQs
Q. Isn't 50 hours of supervised driving a lot to ask of teens and parents?
A. 50 hours over six months equals just 8.3 hours per month, or a little more than 2 hours per week. New drivers need time to familiarize themselves with dozens of driving scenarios—for example rural, urban, suburban, freeways, rush hour, nighttime, dusk, rain and snow.
Q. Why target young drivers and not all novice drivers or elderly drivers?
A. 16-year-old drivers have higher crash rates than drivers of any other age, including older teenagers. The very youngest drivers are also more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as speeding and tailgating. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that the part of the brain that weighs risks, makes judgments and controls impulsive behavior is still developing in teens, and does not mature until about age 25. GDL introduces beginners into the driving population in a low-risk manner, protecting them and others.
Q. Why not just penalize the "problem" drivers?
A. The logic of addressing all young people is that they are all beginners when they start driving. Every novice needs time to develop driving skills in low risk settings.
Q. Does GDL work?
A. Graduated drivers license (GDL) programs are helping to reduce teen driving deaths. States began enacting GDL laws in the 1990s. Latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that the number of drivers age 15 to 20 involved in fatal crashes totaled 4,347 in 2011, down 48 percent from the 8,325 involved in 2002.
A study supported by NHTSA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released in July 2006, found that GDL programs can reduce fatal crashes for 16-year old drivers by an average of 11 percent. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that when states had comprehensive GDL programs, those with a least five of the following elements in effect, there was a 20 percent reduction in fatal crashes involving 16-year old drivers:
- A minimum age of 15½ for obtaining a learner's permit
- A waiting period after obtaining a learner's permit of at least three months before applying for an intermediate license
- A minimum of 30 hours of supervised driving
- Minimum age of at least 16 years for obtaining an intermediate license
- Minimum age of at least 17 years for full licensing
- A restriction on carrying passengers