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Young passengers are associated with a substantial increase in the risk of a fatal crash for teenage drivers (Chen et al., 2000; Ouimet et al., 2010; Ouimet et al., 2015; Preusser et al., 1998; Tefft et al., 2013). Each additional passenger is associated with an additional increase in fatal crash risk (Chen et al., 2000; Ouimet et al., 2015; Preusser et al., 1998; Tefft et al., 2013). Fatal crash risks are highest when young male drivers carry same age passengers, especially if those passengers are also male (Chen et al., 2000; Ouimet et al., 2010; Ouimet et al., 2015; Tefft et al., 2013).

To reduce this risk, most States include a passenger restriction in their GDL requirements for intermediate licensees. According to NHTSA’s 2007 Motor Vehicle Occupant Safety Survey, 86% of the general public believe that teenagers should have a restriction on the number of teenage passengers they can carry (Block & Walker, 2008). In a national survey, 89% of parents say they support passenger restrictions; 82% think the passenger limit should be one or zero (Williams et al., 2011).


As of November 2021, 46 States and the District of Columbia restricted in some way the number of passengers who can be carried by an intermediate license driver (IIHS, 2021b). The most common passenger restrictions limit teenage drivers to zero or just one passenger. Some restrictions apply to all passengers and some only to passengers younger than a specified age. A few States allow exceptions for transporting family or household members.


There is growing evidence that passenger restrictions are effective in reducing young driver crashes, though the restrictions sometimes are violated (Carpenter & Pressley, 2013; Fell et al., 2011; Goodwin & Foss, 2004; Lyon et al., 2012; Masten et al., 2013; McCartt et al., 2010; Williams, 2007). California allows no passengers younger than 20 for teenagers who hold intermediate licenses. Four studies demonstrate the positive effects of this restriction. For example, one study showed a 38% decrease in 16-year-old-driver crashes in California in which a teen passenger was killed or injured (Williams, 2007). A NHTSA study evaluated passenger restrictions in California, Massachusetts, and Virginia. Results showed 16-year-old driver crashes were reduced in all 3 States, as were motor-vehicle-related injuries among 15- to 17-year-olds (Chaudhary et al., 2007). In North Carolina a teen passenger restriction was enacted independent of any other changes to the State’s GDL system. After this restriction 16-year-old-driver crashes involving passengers decreased by 32% (Foss, 2009). National studies have also found large crash rate reductions for passenger restrictions. For example, McCartt et al. (2010) found a 21% reduction in fatal crashes among 15- to 17-year-olds when no passengers were permitted and a 7% reduction when one passenger was allowed. Similarly, Masten et al. (2013) found a 20% lower fatal crash rate among 16-year-old drivers and a 12% lower fatal crash rate among 17-year-old drivers when no more than one young passenger was allowed for at least the first 6 months of independent driving.


Once GDL is in place, a passenger restriction can be implemented at very little cost.

Time to Implement:

GDL requirement changes typically require about 6 months to notify the public and implement the changes.