The Basics of Graduated Driver Licensing

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GDL is a three-step process designed to help teens gain experience and build skill while minimizing common risks such as the use of cell phones cell use, passenger distractions, and nighttime driving.

It’s a game-winning strategy for helping teens be safe behind the wheel.

Step 1: Permit

A teen may obtain a Permit first after successfully passing a written test and in some states after completing behind the wheel training. The permit allows a teen to practice driving only when supervised by an adult who has licensed driving experience. A permit holder has restricted hours, and often a limit on passengers in the vehicle.

Step 2: Probationary License

Once a teen has held the permit for a specified period of time, they can take the behind the wheel driving test to obtain a Probationary License. This allows the teen to drive without supervision but with certain provisions which can include but are not limited to:

restricted passenger load
restricted hours
no use of mobile devices (such as cell phones for talking or texting even if using them hands free)

Step 3: Basic Licensing

Once the teen has completed the time duration of the Probationary License, they may return to the Motor Vehicle Agency to obtain a basic or unrestricted license.

GDL Decals
Being able to identify a teen driver holding a Probationary License is the single most vexing issue for those responsible for administering and enforcing the provision of the GDL programs. Requiring a GDL holder to display a decal has been a long-held and highly effective practice in Canada, the UK, Australia, Germany, Japan, and many other countries. The only state that requires this is New Jersey.

Contrary to what is reported in the press, police do not arbitrarily stop vehicles and harass teens that display the decal, and in 2011 it war reported by the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General that teen safety has not been negatively impacted by the requirement.

Why Does GDL Work?

Parents play a critical role.
Teens whose parents set rules and monitor driving in a helpful, supportive way are:

• Half as likely to be in a crash
• 71% less likely to drive intoxicated
• 30% less likely to use a cell phone while driving
• 50% more likely to buckle up

GDL supports parents by helping to protect teen drivers. Making the components of GDL rules in your home will provide your teen with a safe environment to gain much needed experience.

The National Safety Council recommends parents take it one step further:
• No passengers for the first year (includes siblings)
• No cell phone use – handheld or hands-free – while driving
• No nighttime driving – have the car home by 10 p.m., earlier is better
• Safety belts are to be worn on every trip – no exceptions

To see your state’s GDL laws visit

What do you think, should all states have uniform GDL laws?  What about the Decal…do you think that’s a good idea?  Do you think teens now are more at risk driving then you were when you learned how to drive?

I was invited to participate in a summit with The Allstate Foundation, for which they provided full travel expenses, meals, accommodations and/or other premiums, however my opinions are completely my own and I have not been compensated to publish positive or negative reviews of the event or products associated with my experience.

24 thoughts on “The Basics of Graduated Driver Licensing

  1. I like this GDL idea. As a culture we've come too far away from parental involvement and authority (and oversight). My kids drove with me for a full year before I allowed them to be out alone. It's important.

  2. I got my full-fledged drivers license at 15 back in the 70's. Of course, we didn't have texting then 🙂 I'm just not sure that putting in lots more steps and hoops to go through is the right approach for everyone. I can see how this would benefit many kids, but am not sure this should be made the law everywhere for every situation. Driver's Ed and driver testing are already pretty much of an ordeal–and milestone–for kids.

  3. I think this is a wonderful idea! I do think that kids today are more at risk than we were when we got our license. There are too many distractions these days with the cell phones.

  4. I like the GDL idea. My son is older now…but his driving still scares me. He has calmed down a lot now…but had a few close calls when younger. Us mamas will always worry about our kids driving.

  5. Our state laws are basically like this…. they get the permit by taking the written test – then they may drive only with a parent or guardian for 6 months – during that time they take the driving class which at the end they take the driving test – if passed, they get their license but for 6 months can not drive with other teens in the car, can't drive late at night, etc. I think it has worked well.

  6. I don't see how the GDL sticker will really help. As a parent, my daughter did follow the safety council recommendations, especially the one about others in the car.

  7. yes, teens are more at risk now. Cell phones are a huge problem. I see teens regularly in cars full of other teens and music is playing and every one has a phone in their hands texting or chatting away.

  8. I think it's a fabulous idea. The more hoops to jump through the more seriously it should be taken.

  9. The roads are so crowded and young drivers have so many more distractiions now. Between crowded roads, more advertising signs, phones, radio and texting they need to be better prepared. It's a great idea.

  10. Wow-interesting article..I looked up my state and was a bit disappointed to see that there were no restrictions in regard to passengers (other than family). Thanks for sharing this.

  11. I think GDL are a great thing. I also think the GD decal might help. Enforcement is a problem with this and parents need to help with that also.

  12. I would love to put GLD decals on my car while teaching my children to drive. The other drivers are not very patient with new drivers. I think all the National Safety Council recommendations are terrific.

  13. I like the idea of GDL. I think its definitely an effective program and more states should look into it.

  14. I think GDL is a great idea and I like the decal idea as well (it will make teen drivers think twice).

  15. we have something similar if not the same in NC. It is great way for teens to become better drivers.

  16. I think this is a wonderful program, and it would be great for all states to follow, although allowing states flexibility to set additional criteria that may be relevant in their state.

  17. I make my Daughter put her cell phone on mute when she is driving and no radio also. The more distractions the more likely they'll not pay the attention that is needed to the other drivers and herself.

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