What is the Graduated Driver License Program?

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 minimum age for teens to be eligible for a driver’s permit, a mandatory holding period or probationary license and a basic or full license.

What does New York’s GDL program entail?

Young New York drivers must:

  1. Be at least 16 years old to obtain a learner's permit.
  2. Log at least 50 hours of supervised driving time - 15 of which must be at night - during the first 6 months of the learner's permit stage.
  3. Be at least 16 years and 6 months old to obtain a junior license.
  4. Never drive unsupervised between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. during the junior license stage.
  5. Never carry more than 1 passenger younger than 21 - family members are an exception.
  6. Be at least 17 and complete a driver's education course to obtain a full, unrestricted license.
    If a teen does not take a driver's education course, he/she cannot obtain a full license
    until age 18.

Some exceptions and additional responsibilities may apply. Further information about New York's GDL is available at

Why does New York 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 5,594 people in New York have been killed in teen-related motor vehicle crashes since 1991. It also estimates that since 1991, 856 lives have been saved with the implementation of GDL laws in New York. Implementing GDL programs has saved approximately 14,820 lives nationwide 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, and 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 of 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. While New York does not allow teens on the roadways after 9 p.m. or before 5 a.m., parents can always set earlier times for their teens to be off the roads. 

May teen drivers use hands-free cell phones?

New York bans all motorists from talking on a handheld device and texting while driving, but it does not have specific restrictions for teen drivers. Research clearly shows that both handheld and hands-free devices cause manual, cognitive and visual distraction, and the National Safety Council and the National Transportation Safety Board have called for a nationwide ban of all 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 tool for addressing teen crash risk because they help novice drivers build skill while minimizing risk. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, coach, 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