Learner’s permits. Logging parent-supervised driving hours. Curfews. If you associate these words with your experience of obtaining a driver’s license, you were probably part of the Graduated Driver’s Licensing program, or GDL. These programs were introduced in the early 2000s as a safer alternative for teens to learn how to drive—and GDL is legally required for drivers under the age of 18. DriversEd.com explains:
“The Texas Graduated Drivers License (GDL) law was implemented to reduce the number of casualties that result from such accidents. The program divides the process of obtaining a full drivers license into a number of steps, each one gradually preparing the teenager for responsible and safe driving.”
The idea here is that teens can learn by gradually taking on more responsibilities, starting with low-risk situations and trying on more pressured driving situations (i.e. night driving) over time, with mom or dad in the passenger’s seat. These programs have been proven to decrease car crashes involving teens by a whopping 40 percent.
So, how does the program work? Students achieve completion (and a full license) at the end of what is generally three phases (program details differ from state to state).
PHASE ONE: LEARNER’S PERMIT
During this phase, students are granted with a learner’s permit or instruction permit, that allows them to try out driving with restrictions and boundaries in place. With this permit, the student driver can get behind the wheel with a licensed driver at least 21 years of age in the passenger’s seat. Minimum age to acquire a learner’s permit differs from state to state, ranging from 14 to 16. Students are required to log an average of 50 driving hours over an average of 6 months (again, these numbers change dependent upon state laws).
PHASE TWO: PROVISIONAL LICENSE
After the student has logged these hours over the required amount of time, they may apply for a provisional license. This intermediate license allows for unsupervised driving, but places rules and restrictions around the new driver. DriversEd.com outlines the following rules:
- The license holder is not allowed to operate a motor vehicle between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m. Exceptions are made in cases when the operation of the vehicle is necessary for the driver to attend or participate in employment or a school-related activity or because of a medical emergency.
- The license holder may not operate a motor vehicle with more than one passenger in the vehicle who is under the age of 21 and not an immediate family member.
- You may not operate a vehicle while using a wireless communication device, such as a cell phone.
Some states have different details, as outlined in this chart by the Governer’s Highway Safety Association.
PHASE THREE: FULL-PRIVILEGE LICENSE
After six months with the ball-and-chain of provisional driving, students can visit their local DMV to get their restrictions lifted.
In the decade that Graduated Driver’s Licensing programs have existed, reports have shown that fatal crashes among teens age 16 to 19 dropped by 55 percent. And with teens being most likely to be involved in a car wreck in their first year of driving (16 year olds being the highest crash rate demographic), this stat is crucial. On top of that, we all know that your wallet can take a serious hit adding a young driver onto your insurance. But with the completion of GDL, you could be looking at some real savings for you and your student. According to The Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, many insurers offer up to 10 percent discounts for young drivers who have completed GDL programs and taken formal driver’s education courses. If you don’t have your youngin’ covered yet, be sure to shop around to see which coverage would be right for your family.