Keeping Young Drivers Safe, Graduated Licensing

Young drivers are involved in fatal crashes at over twice the rate as drivers aged 21 and older. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is encouraging states to adopt a graduated licensing system to ease young drivers into the driving environment. Statistics show that high crash rates among youth are due to driving inexperience and lack of adequate driving skills, excessive driving during nighttime high risk hours, risk-taking, and poor driving judgment and decision making. By controlled exposure to progressively more difficult driving experiences or driving licensing stages, prior to full licensure, NHTSA hopes to significantly reduce the incidence of accidents and fatalities among our young people.

How Does Graduated Licensing Work?

The three stages of a graduated licensing system include specific components and restrictions to introduce driving privileges gradually to beginning drivers. Young drivers are required to demonstrate responsible driving behavior in each stage of licensing before advancing to the next stage. Examples of restrictions might include:

Stage One: Learner's Permit

  • Minimum age recommended by state for a permit (e.g., 15 1/2 years);
  • Pass vision ad knowledge tests, including rules of the road, and signs and signals;
  • Require licensed adult (at least age 21) in the vehicle at all times;
  • All occupants must wear safety belts;
  • Zero alcohol while driving (.02 or less blood alcohol concentration IS the law in Florida);
  • Permit visually distinctive from other driver licenses; and
  • Must remain crash and conviction free for six consecutive months to move to the next stage.

Stage Two: Intermediate/Provisional License

  • Complete Stage One successfully;
  • Minimum age recommended by state for an intermediate license (e.g., 16 years)
  • Pass a behind-the wheel, on-road test;
  • All occupants must wear safety belts;
  • Zero alcohol while driving;
  • Require licensed adult in the vehicle during late night hours (e.g., nighttime driving restrictions).
  • Driver improvement actions are initiated at lower point level than for regular drivers;
  • License visually distinctive from a permit and regular license; and
  • Must remain crash and conviction free for 12 consecutive months to move to next stage.

Stage Three: Full License

  • Complete Stage Two successfully;
  • Minimum age recommended by state for a full license (e.g., 18 years).

Results of Graduated Licensing

Eight states already have a three-stage licensing system; four others have two-stage systems. California reported a 5% reduction in crashes for drivers ages 15-17; Maryland reported a 5% reduction in crashes and a 10% reduction in convictions for drivers ages 16-17; Oregon reported a 16% reduction in crashes for male drivers ages 16-17. Florida, encouraged by these statistics, is considering graduated licensing.

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