Policy Factsheet

Graduated Driver’s Licensing (GDL) Programs

Reasons for Policy

  • Motor vehicle crashes account for 40% of fatalities among adolescents aged 16 to 19 years.1
  • Sixteen-year-old drivers have an especially high risk of crash involvement. Per mile driven, their crash rate is approximately 10 times the rate for drivers aged 30-59 years and more than twice the rate of 18- to 19-year old drivers.2
  • The high risk for crashes is attributed to inexperience and immaturity of teen drivers.3

Policy Components

  • Three stage GDL program: (1) requiring an adult with a valid license be present at all times, (2) allow the new driver to drive along with some restrictions (e.g., no night-time driving, limitations on extra passengers, restrictions on blood alcohol concentrations), and (3) full licensure.

Desired Outcomes

  • Reduction in crashes among teen drivers and the general population
  • Reduction in crash injuries and fatalities among teen drivers and the general population
  • Reduction in hospital admissions due to crashes
  • Reduction in crashes occurring during curfew hours
  • Reduction in alcohol-involved crashes
  • Reduction in traffic violations

Level of Evidence Available to Evaluate Effectiveness of Policy

For all policies we describe on this website, we have applied the Standards of Evidence as defined by Flay et al. (2005) in the Standards of Evidence document published by Prevention Science.

The effectiveness level of this policy is 1: Evidence-Based Policies Meeting Criteria for Effectiveness.

The levels of effectiveness as noted are:

  1. meets criteria for policy effectiveness (consistent, positive outcomes from at least two high-quality experimental or quasi-experimental trials using a comparison group or interrupted time series design);
  2. consistent evidence available linking policy with positive outcomes from high-quality observational studies only;
  3. insufficient evidence available for policy or policy components.

Achievable Results

On average, graduated driver licensing programs can achieve:

  • A 31% decrease in overall crash rates among 16 year-old drivers (range 26-41%)5
  • A 28% decrease in injury crash rates among 16-year old drivers (range 4-43%)5

When GDL programs are more comprehensive, thoughtfully created, and thorough, (including extended learner periods, nighttime restrictions, and passenger restrictions),6 they are more effective.7

Community Examples

Illinois, Office of the Secretary of State, Division of Traffic Safety has a graduated driver’s license program called “Graduate to Safety”.

Tennessee, Department of Safety has a graduated driver’s license program.

Links to Policy Examples

Be sure to check with your state, county, and municipal governments regarding potential existing laws that may impede any new policy development.


1 Ferguson, SA, Leaf, WA, Williams, AF, Preusser, DF (1996). Differences in young driver crash involvement in states with varying licensure practices. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 28(2), 171-180.

2 Chen, LH, Baker, SP, & Li, G (2005). Graduated driver licensing programs and fatal crashes of 16-year-old drivers: A national evaluation. Pediatrics, 118, 56-62.

3 Foss, RD & Evenson, KR (1999). Effectiveness of graduated driver licensing in reducing motor vehicle crashes. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 16(1), 47-56.

4 Flay, BR, Biglan, A, Boruch, RF, Ganzalez Castro, F, Gottfredson, D, Kellam, S, Moscicki, EK, Schinke, S, Valentine, JC, & Ji, P (2005). Standards of evidence: Criteria for efficacy, effectiveness and dissemination. Prevention Science, 6(3), 151-175.

5 Hartling, L, Wiebe, N, Russell, KR, Petruk, J, Spinola, C, & Klassen, TP (2005). Graduated driver licensing for reducing motor vehicle crashes among young drivers. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 2, Art. No.: CD003300. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003300.pub2

6 Wiliams, AF (2007). Contribution of the components of graduated licensing to crash reductions. Journal of Safety Research, 38(2), 177-184.

7 Shope, JT (2007). Graduated driver licensing: Review of evaluation results since 2002. Journal of Safety Research, 38(2), 165-175.