Enforcement of GDL
Parents/guardians are often in the best position to enforce GDL requirements. However, law enforcement support for GDL nighttime driving and teenage passenger restrictions may be useful to emphasize that the requirements are important. GDL violations are penalized by driver license actions, such as suspension or revocation of the learner’s permit or intermediate license or an extension of the time before full licensure. This means they can be applied administratively and do not involve criminal court proceedings.
Presently, GDL requirements do not appear to be enforced vigorously. Although surveys of law enforcement officers found that most were supportive of GDL, officers were not familiar with GDL details and considered GDL enforcement a low priority (Goodwin & Foss, 2004). A study in 2 States identified modest numbers of citations for some offenses, noting that other GDL restrictions were rarely enforced (AAAFTS, 2014). Some GDL provisions such as nighttime driving restrictions are inherently difficult to enforce because violations are difficult to detect (Hedlund et al., 2003). A study in one State found that intermediate license drivers and their parents/guardians were quite aware of their GDL law’s nighttime and passenger restrictions (Goodwin & Foss, 2004). Both restrictions were violated, though not frequently. Similarly, Curry, Pfeiffer, and Elliott (2017) found that teen non-compliance with passenger and nighttime restrictions was low, 8.3% and 3.1%, respectively. Another study using focus groups found that nearly all teen drivers admitted to having violated passenger restrictions, at least occasionally, but teens were mixed in their beliefs about whether police routinely enforce GDL restrictions (Chaudhary et al., 2007).
Another issue with enforcement concerns the difficulties in identifying drivers that qualify as falling under the GDL system in each State. It has been suggested that young drivers should be required to affix a vehicle decal identifying them as qualifying for the GDL program to make them more readily identifiable (Curry, Elliott, et al., 2015). New Jersey was the first State to implement this potential countermeasure.
The amount of enforcement of GDL laws is unknown.
One study investigated whether well-publicized enforcement, including checkpoints near high schools, could increase compliance with seat belt laws and GDL provisions. The study found only modest increases in seat belt use and compliance with the GDL passenger restriction, although levels of compliance prior to the enforcement efforts were already high (Goodwin et al., 2006).
A study of fatal teen driver crashes from 1998 to 2016 in New Jersey reported both extensive public health campaigns and targeted enforcement of GDL laws are necessary for the prevention of such crashes (Bonne et al., 2018). GDL was implemented in New Jersey in 2002. However, significant reductions in teen fatal crashes and the number of fatally injured teenagers were seen only after a comprehensive campaign of public awareness, education, and enforcement began in 2010. School outreach, classroom discussions, parent/teen orientations, and public service announcements on GDL were distributed as part of the awareness campaign. Enforcement practices consisted of checkpoints near high schools and targeted enforcement of GDL provisions based on decals. Teen driver crashes in the 4-year pre-campaign period (2006 to 2010) were compared with a 6-year post-campaign period (2010 to 2016). Teen-involved crashes decreased 31%, teen driver fatalities decreased 47%, and teen-involved fatal crashes decreased by 43% after the campaign.
Studies evaluating the effectiveness of vehicle decals in New Jersey have found increases in citations for violations of licensing restrictions and decreases in crash rates among intermediate license holders in the year after the requirement went into effect (Curry et al., 2013; McCartt et al., 2012). A longer term (2-year) evaluation of the effect of the decal provision on police-reported crash rates and citations was conducted and baseline comparisons using data from a 4-year pre-decal period were performed (Curry, Elliott, et al., 2015). The study showed that the adjusted crash rates for intermediate license holders were 9.5% lower after the decal provision. There were no changes in crash rates or citations for holders of learner’s permit (Curry, Pfeiffer, et al., 2015). A follow-up study found that the decline in crash rates could not be attributed to increases in young drivers’ compliance with passenger or nighttime restrictions but may have been the result of a general increase in safer behaviors when displaying decals (Palumbo et al., 2018).
GDL law enforcement costs will depend on how the enforcement is conducted. Enforcement through regular patrols will require moderate costs for training. Special patrols or checkpoints will require additional staff time. To be most effective, all enforcement efforts will require good publicity to both teens and parents/guardians. Publicity to teens can be delivered through high schools, colleges, recreational venues attended by youth, and media directed to youth. The cost of vehicle decals can be paid for by the licensee when they receive a learner’s permit or intermediate license. In New Jersey, vehicle decals cost $4 for a pair.
Time to Implement:
Enforcement programs can be implemented within 3 or 4 months, as soon as appropriate training, publicity, and equipment are in place.
- Compliance with restrictions: Several studies have shown that teenagers do not always comply with GDL restrictions (Goodwin & Foss, 2004; Williams et al., 2002). To the extent that teens do not adhere to restrictions, the effectiveness of GDL may be reduced. It should be noted, however, that GDL has been shown to be effective even in the absence of police enforcement. In general, compliance with restrictions will be higher in States that have well-designed GDL systems with restrictions that are considered reasonable by parents/guardians and teens (Foss & Goodwin, 2003). Curry, Pfeiffer, and Elliott (2017) used the quasi-induced exposure (QIE) method to estimate young, intermediate drivers’ compliance with passenger and nighttime restrictions in New Jersey. The QIE method assumed that young intermediate drivers in multi-vehicle crashes—where the teen driver was not at fault—were reasonably representative of the population of young intermediate drivers. Data from a total of 9,250 teenage drivers who were involved in multi-vehicle crashes from July 2010 to June 2012 were examined. Noncompliance with the passenger restriction was, on average, 8.3%, and noncompliance with the nighttime restriction was 3.1%. Certain groups and situations were associated with higher rates of noncompliance—male drivers, those residing in low-income and urban areas, weekend trips, and trips in the summer months. The authors concluded that outreach activities should be focused, where possible, on higher-risk situations and groups with higher noncompliance.
- Citation dismissal in the courts: One study in 2 States noted relatively high rates of GDL-related citations being dismissed by the courts, which could have a negative impact on the effectiveness of those programs (AAAFTS, 2014).