Graduated drivers licensing (GDL), is a process that typically includes a three-phase system for beginning drivers. The specifics for current GDL systems in place, within the United States, vary substantially from state to state. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has encouraged all states to implement a graduated licensing system and offer recommended components and restrictions for states to use within their GDL process.
In the 1990's the NHTSA, along with other government agencies, established a model for graduated driver licensing. This model has been undated as more information becomes available to the NHTSA. The basic model for GDL addresses both the inexperience and lack of maturity of young drivers. The GDL system is structured in such a way that beginner drivers can gain driving experience while being in less-risky situations. The result of graduated drivers licensing being implemented in most states is a reduction in traffic and fatal collisions involving teenage drivers.
The model set up by the NHTSA for GDL includes three phases and consists of a learner's permit, an intermediate (or provisional) license and a full license. The different stages allow the young driver to gather experience and develop as a motor vehicle operator as restrictions are slowly taken away. This process lets the teenager be gradually introduced to full driving privileges. The young, novice driver must demonstrate responsible behavior and driving abilities before advancing to the next stage.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration GDL Model follows and as previously stated includes a Learner's Permit, Intermediate (or Provisional) license and a final full License.
A learner's permit allows for driving only while supervised with a fully licensed driver that is over 21 years old. It is suggested that each state should set a minimum age at which a youth can apply for a learner's permit. Other restrictions that the NHTSA recommends during Stage 1 of the GDL system are:
- Pass vision and knowledge tests. Knowledge test should include rules of the road, signs and signals.
- Complete basic vehicle skills training, by attending a driver's education course or by other means.
- All occupants must wear safety belts.
- Zero alcohol while in vehicle.
- Parental certification of certain amount of practice hours.
- Must remain accident (crash) and conviction free for at least 6 months to move to the next stage.
The intermediate or provisional license is what the NHTSA recommends next for the GDL system. An intermediate license allows the youth to drive unsupervised but with specific restrictions. Restrictions in most states include limits on the times in which they can drive, no night driving and a limit to the number of teenager passengers allowed in the vehicle. There typically is a minimum age that one must be to apply for a provisional license. Other limitations for recommended during Stage 2 of a GDL system are:
- Must have previously completed Stage 1 requirements.
- Pass a driving road test.
- Complete advanced driver education training. This might include a safe driving decision making class, risk education course, etc.
- All occupants must wear seat belts.
- Licensed adult required in the vehicle during late-night hours. Better known as night-time restrictions.
- Zero alcohol while in vehicle or driving.
- Supervised practice.
- Must remain accident (crash) and conviction free for at least 12 consecutive months to move to the next stage.
The learner's permit and intermediate license each must be held for a state specified minimum period of time. After that time limit is up, the driver is at the minimum age set, and they have complied with all of the conditions of their current licensing phase, the motorist can apply to step up to the next stage of the GDL process.
The final stage of the three-phase graduated licensing system is a full license. This will allow the driver to have full driving privileges. To get to Stage 3 of the GDL system you need to:
- Complete Stage 2 and its provisions.
- Be at the state's minimum age for a full license.
- Zero alcohol while driving.
Many states have set up a three-phase GDL system that has restrictions for young drivers while a few states only have a two-phase GDL system in place. Some states have matched or exceeded all of the components of the GDL model set up by the NHTSA and other government agencies but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) notes that no state has what would be considered an optimal graduated driver licensing system. That is why states watch statistics regarding teen drivers and continue to revise the GDL systems. You should contact the Department of Motor Vehicles for your state to find out about the minimum age to drive and their GDL guidelines for new drivers.