Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Graduated Driver License Program?

First implemented in Michigan and Florida in the mid-1990s, Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) is a three-step system designed to provide novice drivers with the necessary tools to be safe on our roadways and minimize those things that cause them the greatest risk of crash – distraction caused by other passengers, the use of cell phones and electronic devices as well as driving late at night and riding unbelted. There is a learner's permit phase, a probationary license period and finally a basic or full license.

What does a GDL program entail?

All 50 states and D.C. have implemented some form of GDL. Typically, GDL has three stages:

  1. Learner’s permit - teen drivers only can drive with supervision
  2. Intermediate licensure - teens may drive unsupervised but with restrictions such as passenger and nighttime driving
  3. Full, unrestricted licensure

The seven recommended GDL elements are based on decades of scientific research. 

  1. At least 16 years old to receive learner’s permit
  2. Six month holding period before receiving intermediate license to drive unsupervised
  3. 30-50 hours of supervised driving during learner’s permit stage
  4. At least 16 years 6 months old before receiving intermediate license
  5. No driving unsupervised between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
  6. No more than one teen passenger during the intermediate licensure
  7. At least 18 before receiving an unrestricted, full license

Why do states need a GDL program?

Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens, and their crash risk is four times that of an experienced driver. The risk is highest when teens are in the first 12 to 24 months of licensure. The implementation of GDL programs has saved approximately 14,820 lives nationally since 1991. It is proven to reduce the number of motor vehicle crashes involving teen drivers.

Why are passengers dangerous for teen drivers?

Most teen crashes involve some form of distraction. While cell phone use clearly poses a danger to all motorists, passengers are particularly distracting to young drivers. A teen driver is twice as likely to be killed in a crash while carrying just one passenger, regardless of whether the passenger is a friend or a sibling. Carrying two passengers increases crash risk by 158 percent, and three passengers increases risk by 207 percent.

Why is nighttime driving risky for teens?

Forty percent of all teen driver fatal crashes occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Many states do not allow teens on the roadways unsupervised during certain nighttime hours but parents are encouraged to set an earlier time for their teens to be off the roads.

May teen drivers use hands-free cell phones?

This varies from state to state. 

How can I help a teen driver gain more experience?

Research clearly shows that GDL programs are the most effective tactic for addressing teen crash risk because they help novice drivers build skill while minimizing risk. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, coach, advisor, older sibling, neighbor or friend, learning about and enforcing the GDL program is important.

Parents in particular play a critical role in teen driver safety. Teens who report having parents that set rules and monitor their activities in a helpful and supportive way are half as likely to crash, 71 percent less likely to drive intoxicated, 30 percent less likely to use a cell phone while driving and 50 percent more likely to wear a safety belt. By partnering with parents, you can help to ensure that they know about and leverage the proven principles of GDL so their teens gain skill and become good drivers for life.