Graduated Driver Licensing

Graduated Driver Licensing systems -- often called GDL -- are an effective method for reducing the crash risk of new teen drivers.

GDL systems are designed to phase young novice drivers into full driving privileges gradually over time so they gain behind-the-wheel experience and develop driving skills in lower-risk conditions.  Research studies have shown that strong GDL systems can reduce crash rates among teen drivers up to 40%.

What is Graduated Driver Licensing?

A comprehensive graduated driver licensing system consists of a learner's stage, an intermediate stage, and an unrestricted driving stage. This three-stage GDL system should include several key components:

Learner's Stage

  • Minimum entry age of 16 years for a learner's permit
  • Minimum holding period of 6 months
  • Minimum of 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving
  • Ban on non-emergency use of electronic communication devices

Intermediate Stage

  • Minimum age of 16 years, 6 months for a "provisional" or restricted driver license
  • Nighttime driving restriction
  • Passenger restriction
  • Ban on non-emergency use of electronic communication devices

Unrestricted Stage

  • Minimum age of 18 years for an unrestricted driver license


Research has conclusively shown the benefits of GDL programs. We know which laws work to reduce crashes and save lives, but states have been slow to act. State teen driving laws - often referred to as Graduated Driver Licensing programs, or GDL - still vary widely in strength and effectiveness from state to state.  Click here to check your state's laws.


Do GDL Systems Really Reduce Crashes and Save Lives?


  • In 1997, the first full year of its GDL system, Florida experienced a 9% reduction in fatal and injury crashes for 15-17 year-olds, compared with 1995. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 1999)
  • Researchers examined GDL systems implemented in 1997 in Michigan and North Carolina, which were considered among the country's most comprehensive programs. Comparing 1999 with 1996 data, crashes involving 16-year-old drivers decreased by 25% in Michigan and 27% in North Carolina. (Journal of the American Medical Association, 2001)
  • In California, the alcohol-related crash rate of 16-year-olds dropped 16 percent in the first year after the GDL law took effect and 13 percent in the second year when compared with the crash rate of 16-year-olds before the law was in place. (Automobile Club of Southern California, 2002)
  • In California, teenage passenger deaths and injuries resulting from crashes involving 16-year-old drivers declined by 40 percent statewide from 1998 through 2000, the first three years of the program. In addition, the number of at-fault collisions involving 16-year-old drivers decreased by 24 percent. (Automobile Club of Southern California, 2001)
  • Oregon's GDL system was particularly effective with male teen drivers. Those who completed the GDL system experienced 16% fewer crashes during their first year of driving compared to those who had not received their license under the GDL system. (NHTSA, 1998)