Several regions of the world, particularly in the United States, have enacted graduated driver's license laws for citizens under a certain age, typically 18, who are getting a drivers license for the first time. A Graduated Driver's License (GDL) has certain restrictions on when the driver is allowed to drive, and how old passengers may be. Usually there are several tiers of restrictions which ultimately end after a year or when the driver turns 18. It is believed that graduated driver's license laws make driving safer for teens who are just learning how to drive.
Numerous studies have concluded that young drivers are at a greater risk of getting into potentially deadly driving situations due to inexperience. These problems can often be compounded by the problem of young friends in the car goading the driver on, or not understanding the potential danger of driving at night or in adverse weather conditions. Several American states enacted graduated driver's license laws and saw an immediate decline in fatal accidents among youth, leading others to follow suit.
Graduated driver's license laws vary from state to state, but usually have two sets of restrictions. In the first six months of the license, the driver may not drive between midnight and six in the morning, and may not carry any passengers under 25, unless someone over 25 with a driver's license is in the front passenger seat. In the second six months, the driver may carry passengers of any age, but may not drive between the restricted hours. In some states, graduated drivers license laws do not allow minors under 18 to drive between midnight and six in the morning at all, regardless as to how long the teen has held the license, because these hours are the most dangerous for young drivers. During the restricted stage, the license is considered provisional: when the restrictions expire or the teen turns 18, it turns into a full license.
Many graduated driver's license laws also include restrictions on the learner's permit, in addition to the provisional license. A learner's permit must be obtained in most areas before a driver can apply for a license. Under graduated driver's license laws in some areas, if the learner's permit is held by a minor, he or she must hold it for at least six months before applying for a license and log a set number of hours with a certified driving instructor and his or her parents. By holding the permit for six months and driving a set number of hours, it is hoped that the teen will have more driving experience and the ability to make sound decisions when he or she finally gets a license.
Although graduated driver's license laws seem repressive to teens, it is statistically clear that they save lives. While teens are still at a greater risk of being in fatal accidents, in areas with graduated driver's license laws, this risk has greatly decreased. While nothing can substitute for age and experience, it is clear that these laws have helped make the roads safer for all.