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Graduated Driver Licensing

Graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems address the high risks faced by new drivers by first granting learners permits (supervised practice stage), followed by a provisional license that temporarily restricts unsupervised driving (Williams and Ferguson 2002). Two commonly imposed restrictions include limits on nighttime driving and limits on the number of passengers. These restrictions are lifted as new drivers gain experience and when teenage drivers mature (full licensure) (NCUTLO 2003). Although requirements for advancing through GDL’s three stages–learners permit, provisional licensure, and full licensure–vary across jurisdictions (IIHS 2005), GDL provides a protective environment while new drivers gain experience.


The elevated crash risk for beginning drivers is universal, and GDL has consistently proven effective in reducing such risk. Peer-reviewed evaluations of GDL’s effectiveness in New Zealand, Canada, and the United States show that crashes involving new drivers have been reduced by 9% to 43% (Shope and Molnar 2003; Simpson 2003; Begg and Stephenson 2003). The reasons for these reductions are not clear; however, it is generally accepted that GDL’s safety benefits result both from reductions in the amount of driving by inexperienced drivers and from improvements in driving skills under low-risk conditions.

GDL can apply to all newly licensed drivers–not just those who are young. Research clearly demonstrates that older new drivers experience higher crash rates than drivers of the same age with several years of experience. For this reason, in Canada and New Zealand, where many new drivers are not young, GDL is required of all beginners, regardless of age. Even countries that have a higher licensing age than those in North America can benefit from the introduction of GDL.

Ruth A. Shults, PhD, MPH1, Dorothy Begg, PhD, MPH2, Daniel R. Mayhew, MA3, Herb M. Simpson, PhD³

¹Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA,
²Injury Prevention Research Unit, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand,
³Traffic Injury Research Foundation, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


 Begg D, Stephenson S. Graduated driver licensing: the New Zealand experience. Journal of Safety Research 2003;34:99–105.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). U.S. licensing systems for young drivers. Arlington (VA): IIHS; 2005 [;cited 2005 Nov 3]. Available from: URL: *

National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances (NCUTLO). Graduated driver licensing model law. Alexandria (VA): NCUTLO; 1996. Revised 1999, 2000 [cited 2005 Jan 14]. Available from: URL: *

Shope JT, Molnar LJ. Graduated driver licensing in the United States: evaluation results from the early programs. Journal of Safety Research 2003;34:63–9.

Simpson HM. The evolution and effectiveness of graduated licensing. Journal of Safety Research 2003;34:25–34.

Williams AF, Ferguson SA. Rationale for graduated licensing and the risks it should address. Injury Prevention 2002;8 Suppl 2:ii9–14; ii14–6.

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