1.2 Graduated driver licensing requirements for beginning drivers
Graduated driver licensing (GDL) is a three-phase system for beginning drivers consisting of a learner's permit, then a provisional license, and finally a full license. A learner's permit allows driving only while supervised by a fully licensed driver. A provisional license allows unsupervised driving under certain restrictions. IIHS and TIRF (2004) describe the key provisions of State GDL laws as of August 2004. See Chapter 6, Sections 1.1 to 1.6, for a complete discussion of GDL for beginning young drivers.
GDL helps beginning drivers acquire their initial driving experience in lower-risk situations. During the provisional phase, this is accomplished by restricting driving under certain high-risk circumstances. Some of these restrictions are directly linked to fatigue and distractions. Driving at night is more dangerous overall than during the day and also may pose greater risks of drowsy driving. Passengers, especially teenage passengers, are a major source of distraction. Cell phones can distract drivers, as discussed in Chapter 4, Section 1.l.
Use: As of August 2004, 47 States and the District of Columbia had some GDL components in place. The laws in 37 States and the District of Columbia do not allow driving during certain nighttime hours. Laws in 26 States limit the number of passengers allowed with a driver with a provisional license. In addition to the three States with cell phone laws applying to all drivers, five States prohibit cell phone use by drivers with a learner's permit or provisional license or by drivers under 18 (GHSA, 2005).
Effectiveness: Several studies document that nighttime and passenger GDL restrictions reduce teenage driver crashes and injuries (Hedlund and Compton, 2005; IIHS, 2004; Lin and Fearn, 2003). There are no evaluations of GDL cell phone prohibitions.
Costs: Publicity for GDL restriction changes can be delivered directly by the Department of Motor Vehicles to young drivers as they apply for their learner's permits and provisional licenses, so costs will be minimal. GDL enforcement to date has been low, so costs also are low.
Time to implement: GDL nighttime, passenger, or cell phone restriction changes require several months to implement for drivers receiving a provisional license. They then will take one or two years before all provisionally licensed drivers are subject to the new restrictions.