Graduated driver licensing has been shown to be
Expanding the learning process;
Reducing risk exposure;
Improving driving proficiency; and
Enhancing motivation for safe driving.
|Driving is a skill that improves with time
How Graduated Driver Licensing
Addressing the Problems
Young novice drivers are a highway safety problem
for many reasons, primarily a combination of immaturity, inexperience and
high-risk driving exposure. This is true for teenagers everywhere, but it
is a particular problem in the United States, where more teenagers have
cars or have access to a family car than in any other nation. Teenagers
are also more likely to drive older and smaller cars, are less likely to
wear seat belts, and are more likely to have multiple teenage passengers.
school driver education, a learner's permit and perhaps stepped up penalties
for infractionshave not had as great an impact on reducing the incidence
of teen crashes and convictions as anticipated. In fact, there is some evidence
that early driver education classes may encourage younger licensure, thereby
increasing risk exposure.
On the other hand, graduated driver licensing has
been shown to be effective by:
- Expanding the learning process;
- Reducing risk exposure;
- Improving driving proficiency; and
- Enhancing motivation for safe driving.
Let's look at each of these four benefits.
Expanding the learning process
Graduated driver licensing lengthens the learning
process. The longer the period of time that elapses between issuance of
the first permit to the full, unrestricted license, the more maturity and
experience the novice driver will accumulate and the better his or her driving
performance will be. The learning experience for driving cannot be rushed.
As with any complex task, it takes time to assimilate the skills and information
needed to perform the job adequately.
Reducing risk exposure
Graduated driver licensing allows young drivers
to gain much-needed driving experience in controlled, lower risk circumstances,
such as nighttime driving restrictions, passenger limitations, required
restraint use for all occupants, and license sanctions that kick in at a
lower threshold (e.g., first conviction for a serious violation).
These exposure-reducing components work in two
ways. First, they catch young drivers early when they make mistakes or errors
in judgment and allow correction. Second, they serve as a motivating factor
for teens to study for tests, drive safely and avoid risks in the first
|Percentage of Fatal Crashes With Various Characteristics,
by Driver Age, 1993|
| Single Vehicle
| Driver Error
| 3+ Occupants
|0.10+ Percent BAC*
| Female Driver
| *BAC=Blood Alcohol Concentration. In most states, 0.10
percent is the legal BAC threshold.|
| Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (Status
Report December 17, 1994)|
Improving driving proficiency
Placing limits on teen mobility may reduce driving exposure, but driving
proficiency can be improved through measures that emphasize getting teens
behind the wheel to practice. These components encourage the intermediate
licensee to make safe driving decisions while driving to reduce risk. They
include: multi-level instruction coupled with multi-level testing (giving
inexperienced drivers the opportunity to first learn then practice the basics
before moving on to learning and practicing more advanced skills); parental
guidance; driver improvement courses; and delayed re-testing after failure.
Enhancing motivation for safe driving
Graduated driver licensing not only helps the novice driver better cope
with risks, but also enhances the motivation to drive safely and "play
by the rules." Restrictions are lifted as rewards for good driving,
and sanctions are imposed for violations. For young drivers, the worst sanction
may be the delay that keeps them in an earlier stage longer, while their
peers advance to the next level. By making relief from restrictions contingent
upon a good driving record, graduated driver licensing provides incentive
to drive safely.
|How the Community Can Promote Graduated
Everyone has a role to play in promoting graduated driver licensing and
helping it succeed. Here are just a few examples:
Parents or guardians are essential. While no system should put all the
burden on parents, a graduated driver licensing system emphasizes parental
supervision (e.g., providing driving practice, determining when and where
driving is done, etc.) and parental certification that practice hours have
been completed as required. Graduated driver licensing encourages parents
to actively take part in preparing their teenagers for driving. It provides
an opportunity for parents to serve as positive role models for their children.
Traffic Safety Education Field
Driver education works better with a graduated driver licensing system,
which provides an incentive for formal instruction. The current high school
driver education system can be adapted to fit well within a graduated driver
licensing system. This would require the course to be divided into two or
three discrete phases, with practice sessions and testing at the end of
Modern communications tools such as home video and interactive computer
learning materials can supplant or augment classroom training prior to behind-the-wheel
practice. Training programs and materials should not focus on how to pass
the test but rather how to incorporate the appropriate skills, attitude
and behavior to be
a safe, successful driver. Such a program should also include information
on other aspects of transportation safety, such as pedestrian safety, bicycle
safety, the need for occupant protection, and the importance of motorcycle
helmets. Programs should also cover transportation issues such as alternate
transport, trip planning and vehicle preparation and actions to take in
an emergency. And, where there is a choice, teens should be encouraged to
drive safer vehicles.
The medical community sees firsthand the results of motor vehicle crashes.
Most physicians, nurses, emergency medical service professionals and others
will tell you that the hardest part of their job is telling a family about
the loss of a child or other family member. Although implementation of a
graduated driver licensing process does not directly involve the medical
community, these individuals (as well as their state and national professional
organizations) are likely to be strong allies and partners in the process.
Nearly every national law enforcement group has endorsed graduated driver
licensing because police officerslike the medical communityare
the ones who see the results of poor driving every day. Law enforcement
has an active role to play in the implementation of a new system, and keeping
traffic officers informed about changes in laws is a vital step. Law enforcement
officers are also highly effective speakers at high school assemblies, Scout
meetings, and other youth group gatherings.
|Questions and Answers On Graduated Driver
Does graduated licensing discriminate against
No. On the contrary, graduated driver licensing protects teenagers by
introducing beginning drivers to the driving process under controlled circumstances
in a low-risk manner. Just as teens are not allowed to conduct certain work,
legal or financial transactions without direct parental involvement, they
should not be allowed to drive until they have learned how to do it safely.
How can teens get around to school, jobs and
There is no question that, for safety's sake, graduated driver licensing
limits mobility for younger teens. This is true especially at night (the
most dangerous time), but most states allow exceptions in the case of driving
to school or work or for farm-related activities.
Delaying full licensure does not significantly hinder extracurricular
and social activities, however. A survey by the Insurance Institute for
Highway Safety of more than 50,000 high school students in seven states
found that the social life and work patterns of 16-year-olds were generally
unaffected by the beginning driving age in their state.
Is driver education the best way to learn to
A good program that combines both classroom learning and behind-the-wheel
training is an effective way to learn basic driving skills. But most driver
education programs do not allow for significant hours of practice driving,
and that is what new drivers need. Driving is a skill that improves with
time and maturity. A 1994 Report to Congress by the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration concluded that "current novice driver education
is not doing a very good job in motivating youngsters to drive safely."
A graduated driver licensing system rewards good driving by allowing the
safe novice driver to move ahead to the next step.
Aren't parents anxious for their teens to drive
so they don't have to be the "chauffeur"?
Parents face a real dilemma when it comes to teen driving. On the one
hand, most are quite anxious to give up the "chauffeur" duties
and let their teens handle their own transportation. On the other hand,
they are fearful of the increased risks this brings. Parents strongly support
graduated driver licensing, despite some minor inconveniences to themselves.
More importantly, graduated driver licensing gets parents more involved
by asking them to ensure their children get enough supervised driving practice.
The longer period of supervised driving gives parents and teens plenty of
opportunity not only to practice but also to discuss driving skills, attitudes
and behaviors. Parents also may feel more secure once their teens are fully
licensed because they have more experience and maturity to handle difficult
situations on the road.