Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL)

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL)

Nearly all states have some components of graduated driver licensing (GDL) law in place to help protect teens from serious accidents during the first several months of independent driving. Because a teenager is more than 20 times more likely to be in a crash while moving from supervised driving to driving alone, GDL laws are designed to lessen the danger during that period.

Evidence indicates GDL laws work to protect teen drivers if parents actively enforce the restrictions. GDL limits young drivers’ exposure to high-risk situations and requires more hours of supervised practice before teens can go out on the road alone.

Your child is most safe during the learning to drive phase and least safe during the first few months of independent driving. That’s why it’s so important to help your child receive a minimum 50 or more hours of supervised driving practice with you or a trusted adult before going out on the road alone.

Research on GDL
One study found that teens with a learner permit who were given nearly two years of driving practice were less likely to experience crashes after licensure compared to drivers with six months or less driving practice (Groeger, J.A., 2000, 2001). That’s why GDL laws require a minimum period of supervised driving followed by restricted independent driving (often during daylight hours with no passengers). These restrictions apply until young drivers are finally ready to drive independently without restrictions. Sections in GDL laws vary from state to state.

Optimal GDL Requirements
Although many states do place limits on teen drivers, most laws are not ideal. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, an ideal GDL law includes the following provisions:

  • Long learner and restricted license periods
    – Minimum age for learner’s permit 16 years
    – Learner’s stage lasts at least 6 months
    – Intermediate stage lasts to age 18
  •  Increased and varied supervised driving
    – Minimum 50 hours
  • Passenger restrictions to age 18
    – No passengers younger than age 18 or no more
    than one peer passenger, without adult supervision
  • Nighttime restrictions to age 18
    – Starting at 9 or 10 p.m. without adult supervision
  • Primary seat belt enforcement in all seating positions
    – to at least age 18
  • Early evidence also suggests that GDL include a ban on cell
    phone use, including text messaging. (This is not an official AAP

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