What Researchers Say About Graduated Driver Licensing

Graduated driver licensing has grown more popular here in the US over the past two decades, beginning with Florida in 1996.  Today, every state uses some form of graduated licensing for its novice drivers.  Now that these programs have been around for a while, what is the latest science saying about their effectiveness?

A 2016 study has found that 16-year-olds make fewer driving trips and drive fewer miles than they did prior to the introduction of GDL laws.  The number of trips for 17-year-olds did not decrease, but the overall trip miles did. 1   This results makes sense, given the fact that many states are withholding full driving privileges until later ages, often 17 or 18 years old.  They also reported that 91% of adolescents did not feel inconvenienced by the night-time restrictions imposed by GDL laws.

Another 2016 study examined night-time crashes involving adolescent drivers, and found that, of those adolescents who were involved in night-time driving crashes, 57% of these happened between 9:00PM and midnight. 2   As the GDL night driving restrictions of many states are set to begin at 12:00AM, the researchers suggested a possible benefit to limiting night driving in earlier hours.  Pennsylvania’s night driving restriction begins at 11:00PM, but includes exemptions for activities including school, work and charity.  Pennsylvania currently requires only ten hours of supervised practice in night-time driving.  While this is the bare minimum for licensure, additional training in night driving could be an important factor in reducing these crashes.

Zhu M, Cummings P, Zhao S, Rice T. The association between graduated driver licensing laws and travel behaviors among adolescents: an analysis of US National Household Travel Surveys. BMC Public Health. 2016;16(1). doi: 10.1186/s12889-016-3206-7
Shults RA, Williams AF. Graduated Driver Licensing Night Driving Restrictions and Drivers Aged 16 or 17 Years Involved in Fatal Night Crashes — United States, 2009–2014. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2016;65(29):725-730. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6529a1
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