Keeping teens safe with graduated driver licensing
Last updated: January 1
Getting a driver's license is a rite of passage for many teenagers. While teen drivers may enjoy the newfound freedom, they are at an increased risk on the road. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) states that 16- and 17-year-old drivers are three times more likely to get into a car accident than drivers over the age of 20. The explanation for this is simply that younger drivers lack experience and may overestimate their abilities on the road, says the IIHS.
To help reduce the number of teen driving accidents, every state and the District of Columbia now have graduated driver licensing laws to help teens get more experience behind the wheel before they're fully licensed, says the Insurance Information Institute (III)
What is a graduated driver licensing program?
A graduated driver licensing (GDL) program limits high-risk driving situations for teens, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These programs been shown to reduce teen accidents by up to 50 percent, says the NHTSA.
While the restrictions may vary from state to state, all GDL programs have three phases, according to the III:
- Stage 1, Learner's permit: This is a supervised learning period during which the student must complete road knowledge and vision tests. This phase lasts six to 12 months, depending on the driver's state, and the teen can only drive with a licensed adult in the vehicle during this time. Typically, 30-50 hours of driving experience is required before the next phase, says the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).
- Stage 2, Intermediate license: After completing stage 1, taking driver education training and passing a required road test, a new driver earns their intermediate license. During this stage, certain driving situations may still be restricted unless accompanied by a licensed adult. Typically, there are restrictions on nighttime driving as well as how many passengers can be in the car. The driver must also go without an accident or traffic violation for a set period of time to graduate from this stage. This stage typically lasts until the driver turns 18, says the GHSA.
- Stage 3, Full license: Once the driver completes the first two stages and passes the required licensing tests, they will earn a license with full driving privileges.
No cellphone or electronic devices can be used during the first two phases of a GDL program, according to the GHSA.
How can parents help?
Parents and guardians can play an important role in helping a young driver establish good habits and get plenty of practice behind the wheel. The NHTSA recommends:
- Know your state's GDL laws so that you can enforce them. Consider setting up your own rules as well.
- Set a good example and practice safe driving yourself.
- Take them out on practice drives and make sure they get the required time behind the wheel.
Setting teen drivers up for success behind the wheel is key in helping them stay safe on the road. With graduated driving license programs and plenty of practice, teens can gain the experience that will help make them better drivers.