Teen Drivers Face Strict Laws

Graduated Driver’s License (GDL), which began in the 1990s when Florida passed laws that require a probationary driving period for teenage drivers before the final unrestrictive license is issued, determines auto use of teen drivers in the U.S. today, according to Youth Driving Laws Limit Even the Double Date, New York Times article (8/13/2012.)  “We don’t want to say that teens are a menace to us all, but the reality is, when teen drivers crash, it’s people in other cars or teen passengers who end up dying. You go back to ‘Grease’ and ‘American Graffiti’ to understand the love of youngsters and their vehicles.  But we understand now so much better the risks that are involved,” said Justin McNaull, Director, State Relations for AAA. The Allstate Foundation has a section on State Teen Driving Laws, which provides a representative overview of the issues and statistics showing that GDL programs are effective. "Car crashes are the leading cause of death for young drivers, and we have a real opportunity to enact legislation that can help make our roads safer. This is a bipartisan issue that affects American families across the country," a statement from the Allstate.


Beginning in 2012, the last of the federal three-year implementation requirement that is tied to the receipt of receiving highway funding, North Dakota was the last state to initiate GDL laws. The STANDUP ACT of 2009 (Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection Act) establishes minimum federal requirements for state GDL laws, which are: “States must meet the following requirements; Three stages of licensing – learner’s permit, intermediate stage, and full licensure; Age 16 is the earliest age for entry into the learner’s permit process; Nighttime driving while unsupervised should be restricted during the learner’s permit and intermediate stages, until full licensure at age 18; Driving while using communication devices (cell phone calls, texting) is prohibited until full licensure at age 18 unless it is against the law for all drivers; Unrestricted, full licensure does not occur any earlier than age 18; Passengers are restricted to no more than one non-family passenger under age 21 unless a licensed driver over age 21 is in the vehicle and until full licensure at age 18; Any other requirement adopted by the Secretary of Transportation, such as a minimum duration of 6 months and a minimum of 30 hours of supervised driving for a learner’s permit, may be included; Compliance with the requirements within the first three years after enactment to make states eligible for incentive grants; and Three years are provided for states to meet the requirements, after which sanctions are imposed.

The GDL’s three stages are enacted laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Since there is no national law, each state has decided which provisions and how to enforce them. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute has a complete state-by-state analysis at its Young Driver Licensing Systems in the U.S. section. The Institute research has shown that states with the strongest laws enjoy bigger reductions in teen driver deaths than states with weak laws. Therefore, states like New Jersey which has a new law requiring a decal on the car license plate when a teen drives is also under consideration by other states like New York and Rhode Island as well as Pennsylvania having the strictest requirement for practice driving equal to 65 hours; a breakdown of additional restrictions is summed up by the Governors Highway Safety Association as Cell Phones/Texting: 31 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers; Nighttime Driving Restriction: 48 states and D.C. restrict nighttime driving during the intermediate stage; Passenger Restriction: 45 states and D.C. restrict the number of passengers during the intermediate stage; and Novice Driver Decal: New Jersey is the only state with a measure requiring those younger than 21 without full-privilege licenses to display a decal on their vehicle identifying them as new drivers.                                                                                                                       Susanne L Woodford, Freelance Writer