Graduated Driver Licensing Programs Help to Keep Teen Drivers Safe

In recent years, the issue of car accidents among teen drivers is gaining more and more attention, with new laws and programs being developed to try and increase the safety of young adults behind the wheel.

It has been widely reported that automobile accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the US. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, for instance, reports that “the crash rate for drivers 16 to 19 years old is four times as high as that of drivers 20 and older.”

Needless to say, we need to make sure our kids are well-trained and responsible when we hand them the car keys. This is why many states are introducing laws that promise to combat distracted driving, especially text messaging.

But the fight against distracted driving doesn’t end with increased awareness.

On March 15, USA Today ran a special four-page pullout section titled “Making Teen Driving Safer.” The stellar reporting in the section covered everything from distracted driving to the need for intensified driving lessons, or “graduated driver licensing.” The intent of graduated driver licensing is simple: Make teens spend more time driving before awarding them a license.

All over the country, graduated driver licensing programs are sprouting up, insisting that more time behind the wheel will improve a teenager’s driving abilities. It harkens to Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hour” theory, from the bestseller Outliers, which suggests that if a person spends a considerable amount of time performing an act–no matter what the act might be–that person can become an expert. In short, practice makes perfect. Of course, graduated driver licensing programs don’t require teens to log 10,000 hours to earn a license; but they do require a considerable amount of time.

USA Today’s Larry Copeland reports that the CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Peter Kissinger, has called graduated driver licensing programs “perhaps the most significant [driving] intervention we’ve applied in this country.”

Though the tenets of graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs are different from state to state, the general principles remain. Here’s the basic idea:

  • The minimum age for a learner’s permit is 16, with a six month period before the driver can apply for a provisional license.

  • Heavy parental supervision is encouraged. GDL stresses the importance for parents to teach their kids the ins and outs of driving, and to be present with them while they learn to handle a vehicle.

  • Teens must log between 50-100 hours of supervised driving time before pursuing their provisional license.

  • The minimum age for a provisional license is 17 years old.

  • There is a limit to how many passengers a teen with a provisional license may have in his or her car.

  • There are numerous restrictions on nighttime driving, including a curfew.

  • The minimum age for an unrestricted license is 18 years old.

In addition to these new licensing programs, many schools and organizations are employing realistic videos and public service announcements to deter teens from texting while driving, and engaging in other distracting activities while driving. And in fact, the Carpey Law website has previously posted a link to one of the more effective public service videos regarding the dangers of texting while driving. The video, which is graphic, depicts an accident caused by a girl who was sending a text message while chauffeuring her friends around. Check out the video on Youtube, or see our article on the Carpey Law website.

Our law firm’s lead attorney, Stuart A. Carpey, speaks out against distracted driving whenever he can. He speaks on the issue free-of-charge, offering the insight of a lawyer who has seen the aftermath of a accident first-hand, countless times. If you know of any schools, organizations, or groups that would benefit from a presentation on the dangers of distracted driving, contact Mr. Carpey by email at He would love to hear from you!

For more information on laws and accidents involving distracted driving, check out the many articles in our website’s personal injury law articles section. Or type “distracted driving” into the search field in the left column of this page.