What is GDL and why does it work?

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Jun 5 2012 / By DriveitHOME

What is GDL and why does it work?

Parents of teen drivers are likely to hear the term GDL, which stands for Graduated Driver License. It’s a method that has proved successful in reducing teen crashes because it gives teens much needed driving experience in a low-risk environment.

3 Phases of GDL

GDL is a licensing system that is made up of three stages of licensure.

Phase 1 – Learner’s Permit: During this phase, teen drivers gain experience through supervised driving practice. This phase typically begins around age 15 ½ or 16.

Phase 2 – Restricted License: In this phase teens may drive independently, but with restrictions. This phase does not allow teens to drive unsupervised in the most dangerous situations such as driving at night or with passengers.

Phase 3 – Full License: At this point teens have full driving privileges.

GDL is based on research

GDL was developed based on years of capturing data from teen driving crashes. Researchers identified the leading crash factors for teens. Those crash factors are what make up the seven components of GDL.

In addition to the three driving phases, the other GDL components include:

  • A passenger restriction
  • A nighttime driving restriction
  • A ban on drugs/alcohol
  • Mandatory seat belt use

The National Safety Council also recommends that parents ban cell phone use – handheld and hands-free. Parents should lead by example and not use their cell phones while driving. NSC estimates cell phone use contributes to an estimated 24 percent of all crashes.

While all states have some form of GDL, no state law contains all seven components. States with strong GDL laws have experienced up to a 40 percent reduction in fatalities. According to License to Save data recently released by the National Safety Council and The Allstate Foundation, more than 2,000 lives and $13.6 billion could be saved per year if all states passed all seven GDL components.

A teen’s crash risk is highest immediately following receiving a restricted license. Parents can keep their new teen drivers safe by putting restrictions in place for the first six to twelve months after receiving a restricted license. Two restrictions that parents should put in place include:

  1. A nighttime driving restriction of 10:00 p.m. – earlier is better
  2. A passenger restriction – zero passengers, this includes siblings

Teen crash risk is highest while driving at night and while driving with passengers in the vehicle.

The National Safety Council recommends parents familiarize themselves with their state GDL law. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) provides state GDL laws in an easy to understand format.


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