"Strong GDL programs can reduce the likelihood of a traffic crash for young drivers."
Source: National Evaluation of Graduated Driver Licensing Programs, NHTSA, June 2006
Teenage drivers are twice as likely as adult drivers to be in a fatal crash. Despite a significant decline in driver fatalities of 15- to 20-year-olds between 2001 and 2010, young drivers – particularly 16- to 17-year-olds – are significantly over-represented in fatal crashes.
Our research tells us that immaturity and inexperience are primary factors contributing to these deadly crashes. Both lead to high-risk behavior behind the wheel: driving at nighttime, driving after drinking any amount of alcohol, and driving distracted by teenage passengers and electronic devices.
To address these problems, all States and the District of Columbia have enacted graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws to give young drivers more time to learn the complex skills required to operate a vehicle under less risky circumstances.
While driver education classes can teach road rules and safe driving practices, they’re only part of a GDL program designed to ease teens onto the roadway by controlling their exposure to progressively more difficult driving experiences.
GDL laws vary from State to State, but all GDL programs consist of three stages, identified by the type of license, provisions, and restrictions. Novice drivers 15 to 18 years old must demonstrate responsible driving behavior during each stage of licensing before advancing to the next level.
NHTSA recommends the following provisions and restrictions for each stage in its Report to Congress on Teen Driver Crashes :
"Novice drivers rarely crash while they are being supervised by adults, but have the highest crash rates of all age groups during the first six months of unsupervised driving when they become fully licensed."
Source: The Role of Supervised Driving in a GDL Program, NHTSA, April 2012
Because the laws vary, it is essential to find out your own State’s GDL laws. While you’re at it, check out your licensing agency’s Web site for the driver manual your kids read and a parent guide to supervised driving.
Many States require parents to certify their teens have completed a certain amount of supervised driving practice – usually 40 to 50 hours – before they qualify for an intermediate license. Other States require a 6- to 12-month holding period. It’s a good idea to keep a daily log of your teen’s driving because some States will ask for it.
While GDL laws have proven effective, they are difficult to enforce. Imagine the challenges police face determining your teen driver’s age after 9:00 p.m. That’s why your oversight is so important. Set driving ground rules with your teen and explain the consequences for breaking them; then get it in writing and, most importantly, enforce the rules.