Teen and Novice Drivers

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs allow young drivers to safely gain driving experience before obtaining full driving privileges. Most programs include three stages:

  • Learner Stage: supervised driving, cumulating with a driving test;
  • Intermediate Stage: limiting unsupervised driving in high risk situations; and
  • Full Privilege Stage: a standard driver's license.

During the 1990s, many states began enacting GDL laws. The programs and types of restrictions vary from state to state. Below are some highlights:

  • Cell Phones/Texting: 38 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers. (See GHSA's Cell Phone laws page for more information.)
  • Nighttime Driving Restriction: All states except Vermont restrict nighttime driving during the intermediate stage.
  • Passenger Restriction: 46 states and D.C. restrict the number of passengers during the intermediate stage.
  • Novice Driver Decal: New Jersey is the only state with a measure requiring those younger than 21 without full-privilege licenses to display a decal on their vehicle identifying them as new drivers.

NOTE: GHSA does not compile any additional data on GDL laws other than what is presented here. For more information, consult the appropriate State Highway Safety Office.

Sources: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and State Highway Safety Offices.

Short Term Description
Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs allow young drivers to safely gain driving experience before obtaining full driving privileges.

Teen and Novice Drivers: Alabama

Full Privilege Minimum Age

17 years

Learner Stage

Minimum Age (Years/Months)

Minimum Duration (Months)

Required Supervised Driving Hours (Night Hours)

15 6 50; 0 with driver's ed.

Intermediate Stage

Minimum Age (Years/Months)

Mission Not Accomplished: Teen Safe Driving, the Next Chapter

While the rate of teen driver-involved crashes has declined significantly over the last decade, there is still significant work to be done. A fresh look at 10 years of data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) shows the improvements in teen-involved fatal crash rates have not been as dramatic for older teens (ages 18-20) as compared to their younger counterparts (ages 15-17), and teen drivers are still 1.6 times more likely to be involved in a crash than adults.

Under Their Influence: The New Teen Safe Driving Champions

This publication examines adults—other than parents—who have the opportunity to influence teen decision-making about driving and showcases several safe driving initiatives.

It opens with a primer to help states and practitioners understand why and how to successfully partner with these other adult influencers. It also discusses what potential adult influencers need to know about teen safe driving to ensure they understand the extent and nature of the problem and become champions.

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