Publication Date: 
Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Problem: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, inexperienced drivers are a significant public health problem. Motor vehicle accidents is the leading cause of death of young adults between age 15 and 20. CDC. Teen Drivers: Fact Sheet.

The Law: Graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws require inexperienced drivers to satisfy one or more requirements before being granted full privileges to operate a motor vehicle without supervision. For example, a common feature of these programs is the issuance of a provisional license authorizing an inexperienced driver to operate a vehicle exclusively under the supervision of a fully licensed adult. In many instances, inexperienced drivers must also adhere for a period of time to other restrictions such as not driving at night or with more than one passenger. If an inexperienced driver satisfies the requirements of the provisional period, a fully unrestricted license may be issued. For examples of graduated license laws, see Fla. Stat. § 322.16 (Florida), MCLS § 257.310(e)( Michigan), and ORC Ann. 4507.05(Ohio).

The Evidence: Harling et al. systematically reviewed fifteen studies measuring the impact of graduated driver licensing programs on one or more of the following: overall crashes, crashes with an injury, hospitalization, fatal crashes, crashes at night, alcohol-related crashes, injured teen passengers, convictions and license suspensions, and property damage. Hartling L et al. Graduated driver licensing for reducing motor vehicle crashes among young drivers. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.  2004;(2):CD003300. The review found a median reduction of 31 percent  in crash rates among 16 year-old drivers following the adoption of GDL laws. These findings indicate that GDL programs are effective reducing crashes among novice drivers. 

The Bottom Line: In the judgment of a Cochrane Collaboration expert panel, the current evidence suggest that graduated driver licensing programs are effective public health interventions aimed at significantly reducing the incidence of motor vehicle morbidity and mortality attributable to inexperienced drivers.

Impact: Effective