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 Michigan’s GDL program entail?

Michigan’s GDL program consists of the following elements:

  1. Teens must be 14 years and 9 months old to obtain a permit
  2. Teens must complete 50 hours of driving – 10 of which must be at night – over a period of at least six months before obtaining an intermediate, or restricted, license at age 16 
  3. Teens are not permitted to drive unsupervised between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. when their crash risk is highest, with exceptions for work and school 
  4. Teens with a restricted license cannot carry more than one passenger under age 21 – immediate family members are an exception – for the first 12 months of the restricted licensing period
  5. Teens with a restricted license are prohibited from using a cell phone while driving
  6. A basic, or full, license can be obtained and restrictions lifted after holding a restricted license for 6 months or at age 17, whichever is later

Why does Michigan 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 “License to Save” Report issued by The Allstate Foundation in December 2011 estimates that of the 157 fatalities involved in Michigan crashes with young drivers, 24 would have been avoided with enactment of a more comprehensive GDL law.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 three or more passengers quadruples risk.

Why is nighttime driving risky for teens?

Forty percent of all teen driver fatal crashes occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. While Michigan does not allow teens on the roadways unsupervised between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., parents are encouraged to set an earlier time for their teens to be off the roads. 

May teen drivers use hands-free cell phones?

No. Michigan has a complete cell phone ban for all motorists in the learners permit or restricted stages of GDL. Research clearly shows that both handheld and hands-free devices cause manual, cognitive and visual distraction. NSC and the National Transportation Safety Board have called for a complete ban of cell phone use while driving for all motorists, regardless of age. 

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.

Contact us

National Safety Council

1121 Spring Lake Dr.Itasca, IL 60143-3201[email protected]General Info: (800) 621-7615