Road Injury Prevention Litigation Journal
Road Injury Prevention & Litigation Journal
December, 2000
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Graduated Licensing

(This article is reproduced, with permission, from the website of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety at

In 1998, nearly 42,000 people were killed in traffic crashes and almost 3.2 million more were injured, at a cost more than $150 billion. Young drivers have much higher fatal crash rates than other drivers and represent a significant highway safety problem. Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of American teenagers.

Teen drivers are far more likely than other drivers to be involved in fatal crashes because they lack driving experience and tend to take greater risks due to their immaturity. Graduated driver licensing (GDL) is a system that is effective in reducing young driver crash fatalities. It is designed to introduce young drivers to the driving experience gradually, by phasing in full driving privileges over time and in lower-risk settings.

Graduated driver licensing consists of a learner's stage, an intermediate driving stage and an unrestricted driving stage. Optimal provisions of this three tier system include:

Learner’s Permit
  • minimum entry age of 16
  • held for six months
  • all driving must be supervised by an adult
  • completion of 30-50 hours of supervised driving
Intermediate License
  • held for six months
  • no unsupervised driving at night until age 18
  • no more than one teenage passenger


Full License
  • minimum age of 18 for unrestricted driving privileges

Since 1996, 35 states have adopted some features of GDL, and a smaller number have adopted all of the key components. In 1998, an unprecedented number of states, 13, passed some form of a GDL system and more states are now actively considering GDL.



January, 2000

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