Teen Drivers Ed



    "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.

    How Does the GDL System Work?

    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 :

    Stage 1:
    Learner's Permit
    • Minimum age
    • Minimum duration
    • Required supervised driving hours
    Stage 2:
    Intermediate (Provisional) License
    • Minimum age
    • Nighttime driving restriction
    • Passenger restriction (except for family, unless noted)
    Stage 3:
    Full Licensure
    • Minimum age

    "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

    What are the GDL Laws in My State?

    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.

    What Can I Do to Make Sure My Teen Follows the GDL Laws?

    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.

    In a Nutshell
    • Learn your State's GDL laws using our interactive State map.
    • Check out your licensing agency’s Web site for the driver manual your kids read and a parent guide to supervised driving.
    • Keep a daily log of your teen’s driving because some States will ask for it.
    • Set driving ground rules with your teen and explain the consequences; then get it in writing and, most importantly, enforce the rules.


    NHTSA-Recommended GDL Provisions and Restrictions
    Stage 1: Learner's Permit
    • State sets minimum age for a learner's permit at no younger than 16 years old;
    • Pass vision and knowledge tests, including rules of the road, signs, and signals;
    • Completion of basic driver training;
    • Licensed adult (who is at least 21 years old) required in the vehicle at all times;
    • All occupants must wear seat belts;
    • Zero alcohol while driving;
    • Learners permit is visually distinctive from other driver licenses;
    • Must remain crash- and conviction-free, including violations of the seat belt, zero- tolerance, speed, and other GDL provisions, for at least 6 consecutive months to advance to the next level;
    • Parental certification of 30 to 50 practice hours; and
    • No use of portable electronic communication and entertainment devices while driving.
    Stage 2: Intermediate (Provisional) License
    • Completion of Stage 1;
    • State sets minimum age of 16.5 years old;
    • Completion of intermediate driver education training (e.g., safe driving decision-making, risk education, etc.);
    • All occupants must wear seat belts;
    • Licensed adult required in the vehicle from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. (e.g., night-time driving restriction) with limited exceptions (i.e., religious-, school-, medical-, or employment- related driving);
    • Zero alcohol while driving;
    • Driver improvement actions are initiated at lower point level than for regular drivers;
    • Provisional license is visually distinctive from a regular license;
    • Teenage passenger restrictions – not more than one teenage passenger for the first 12 months of Intermediate License. Afterward, limit the number of teenage passengers to two until age 18;
    • Must remain crash- and conviction-free, including violations of the seat belt, zero- tolerance, speed, and other GDL provisions, for at least 6 consecutive months to advance to the next level; and
    • No use of portable electronic communication and entertainment devices while driving.
    Stage 3: Full Licensure
    • Completion of Stage 2;
    • State sets minimum age of 18 for lifting of passenger and nighttime restrictions;
    • Zero alcohol while driving; and
    • Visually distinctive license for drivers under the age of 21.


    Teen Crash Stats – Get the Facts
    • In 2010, 4,585 drivers 15 to 20 years old were involved in fatal crashes.
    • In 2010, 10 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes and 14 percent of all drivers involved in police-reported crashes were young drivers.
    • In 2010, 60 percent (2,814) of all 16- to 20-year-old occupants killed in passenger vehicles were unrestrained.
    • In 2010, 22 percent of the young drivers involved in fatal crashes were drinking.
    • Of the young (15- to 20-year-old) passenger vehicle drivers who had been drinking and were killed in crashes, 71 percent were unrestrained; of the non-drinking young drivers killed, 47 percent were unrestrained.
    • Ten percent of the people killed in teen driving crashes died when the teen driver was distracted at the time of the crash.
    • Among young drivers, 495 drivers were killed at the age of 19 in 2010 – highest among young drivers; 36 percent of these drivers were drinking.