How Does Your State’s GDL Law Stack Up?

This article originated in the March/April 2013 issue of Safe Ride News.

A 2006 NHTSA-supported study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found that states with comprehensive graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs experienced a 20 percent drop in fatal crashes involving 16-year-olds (Compton & Ellison-Potter, 2008).
All states have some form of GDL, but most are not considered comprehensive.   NHTSA defines a comprehensive GDL program as one that includes at least five of these seven components:

  • Minimum age of 15 1/2 for obtaining a learner’s permit.
  • Minimum waiting period after obtaining a learner’s permit of at least three months before applying for an intermediate license.
  • Minimum of 30 hours of supervised practice driving.
  • Minimum age of 16 1/2 for obtaining an intermediate license.
  • Nighttime driving restriction during intermediate stage.
  • Passenger restriction during intermediate stage.
  • Minimum age of 17 for full licensure.

The Advocates for Highway and Automobile Safety (Advocates), an alliance of consumer, health, and safety groups and insurance companies/agents, is dedicated to promoting these and other highway safety laws.  In January, it published the 2013 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws, the 10th annual edition of this report that rates 15 key traffic safety laws.  Seven of these have to do with components of GDL laws, mirroring the ones in this article identified by NHTSA.  However, in many cases, Advocates sets a higher bar for full credit in its ratings.  For instance, it identifies as ideal  a minimum age of 16 years for a learner’s permit and 18 for full licensure, requires a longer waiting period of six months before a learner can apply for an intermediate license, and specifies that nighttime driving restrictions should extend from 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM.
Although 12 states are rated “good” for having at least five optimal laws, none have all seven. (Delaware is the closest, with six.)


GDL laws by state and Advocates’ state ratings at

Resources for Promoting Teen Driver Safety

Research has shown that an increased level of parental monitoring and involvement has a protective effect on new drivers (Simons-Morton, et al., 2008).  The following websites contain helpful resources to guide caregivers and the organizations that support them in this effort.