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Studies suggest teenagers and adults are similar in terms of how often they engage in potentially distracting activities while driving (Foss & Goodwin, 2014; Klauer et al., 2014). However, teenagers are at higher risk for a crash when engaged in distracting activities compared to adults (Klauer et al., 2014). Driving requires more of their deliberate attention compared to experienced drivers (Lansdown, 2002). Moreover, key areas of the brain are still developing during adolescence, making it difficult for teenagers to manage potential distractions (Keating, 2007).

Passenger restrictions are a key element of graduated driver licensing (GDL) that reduce the likelihood of distractions for newly licensed drivers. Passengers, especially teenage passengers, are a major source of distraction for young, beginning drivers (Foss & Goodwin, 2014). The NCHRP guide for reducing crashes involving young drivers describes key provisions of GDL laws (Goodwin et al., 2007). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (2021a) and the Governors Highway Safety Association (2021) summarize State GDL laws. These summaries are updated monthly. See the chapter on Young Drivers for a complete discussion of GDL.


As of June 2021 all 50 States and the District of Columbia had some GDL components in place. Laws in 46 States and the District of Columbia limit the number of passengers allowed with a driver with a provisional license (IIHS, 2021a).


Many studies have documented that GDL in general, and passenger restrictions in particular, reduce teenage driver crashes and injuries (Chaudhary et al., 2018; Goodwin et al., 2007; Hedlund & Compton, 2005; Williams, 2007a). In an analysis of naturalistic driving data, the most frequently seen driving behavior leading up to a teen crash was attending to passengers (Carney et al., 2015). Limiting the number of young passengers to none or one significantly decreases crash risk and injuries (Masten et al., 2013; McCartt et al., 2010; McCartt & Teoh, 2015; Zhu et al., 2016). See the chapter on Young Drivers for more information.


Costs are minimal. Information about GDL restrictions can be provided through driver education courses, licensing offices, schools, and other settings.

Time to implement:

GDL passenger restriction changes require several months to implement for drivers receiving a provisional license. They then will take 1 or 2 years before all provisionally licensed drivers are subject to the new restrictions.