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Graduated Driver’s License Policies

Description of Strategy

Graduated driver’s licensing (GDL) regulations require new young drivers to advance through restrictive beginner and intermediate phases before they can achieve full licensure. The fundamental intent of these programs is to encourage new drivers to acquire critical driving skills and experience in low risk and monitored settings. In 1996, the state of Florida implemented the first GDL program in the United States. Within just 6 years, 38 states had introduced similar policies (Dee, Grabowski, & Morrisey, 2005).

In Wyoming, drivers under 17 years of age have restricted licenses, called intermediate permits. With these permits, drivers are not allowed to drive with more than one passenger under the age of 18 years who is not a member of the driver’s immediate family and drivers may only legally drive between the hours of 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. (Wyoming Department of Transportation, 2009).

Also known as...

Graduated driver's license (GDL)

Discussion of Effectiveness


The evidence generally supports the effectiveness of graduated license policies as a prevention strategy to reduce alcohol-related outcomes. A 2012 study found restrictive GDL laws were associated with decreased driving after drinking alcohol and riding in a car with a driver who had been drinking alcohol among high school youth (Cavazos-Rehg et al., 2012). A Canadian study evaluated the effectiveness of a graduated driver’s license law with a legal blood alcohol threshold at zero for new drivers on youth drunk driving rates. The study found a decrease in drunk driving rates for 16 to 17 year olds, but the decrease was not significantly associated with implementation of the new law (Carpenter, 2006).
A systematic review (University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, 2015) reported graduated driver’s licenses were ineffective in reducing youth alcohol use. However, they found the following postive effects:
• GDLs reduce fatal and non-fatal injuries, especially for 15 and 16-year-old drivers;
• there is evidence that GDLs continue to reduce fatal crashes through young adulthood;
• GDL laws with nighttime driving restrictions reduce crashes and fatalities more than those without, and those nighttime restrictions that begin at 9 or 10pm are more effective than those that begin later;
• GDLs that impose passenger restrictions during provisional license periods reduce crashes and fatalities;
• increasing the minimum age for obtaining permit or licenses reduces fatal crashes for 15-17 year olds;
• requiring more supervised practice hours may reduce crashes; and
• teens generally comply with GDL laws when they and their parents regard the laws as reasonable.
GDL regulations are strongly associated with a decrease in overall traffic crashes. A 2007 systematic review of studies on graduated license policies found that implementation of GDL regulations can reduce youngest drivers’ crash rates 20-40 percent (Shope, 2007).


Strategy Description

Dee, T. S., Grabowski, D. C., & Morrisey, M. A. (2005). Graduated driver licensing and teen traffic fatalities. Journal of Health Economics, 24(3), 571–589. doi:10.1016/j.jhealeco.2004.09.013

Wyoming Department of Transportation. (2009). Driver’s License and Records. Retrieved August 10, 2012

Evidence Base

Carpenter, C. (2006). Did Ontario’s Zero Tolerance & Graduated Licensing Law reduce youth drunk driving? Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 25(1), 183–195. doi:10.1002/pam.20161

Cavazos-Rehg, P. A., Krauss, M. J., Spitznagel, E. L., Chaloupka, F. J., Schootman, M., Grucza, R. A., & Bierut, L. J. (2012). Associations between selected state laws and teenagers’ drinking and driving behaviors. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 36(9), 1647–1652. doi:10.1111/j.1530-0277.2012.01764.x

Dee, T. S., Grabowski, D. C., & Morrisey, M. A. (2005). Graduated driver licensing and teen traffic fatalities. Journal of Health Economics, 24(3), 571–589. doi:10.1016/j.jhealeco.2004.09.013

Foss, R. D., Feaganes, J. R., & Rodgman, E. A. (2001). Initial effects of graduated driver licensing on 16-year-old driver crashes in North Carolina. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 286(13), 1588–1592. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-286-13-joc10277

McCartt, A. T., Teoh, E. R., Fields, M., Braitman, K. A., & Hellinga, L. A. (2010). Graduated licensing laws and fatal crashes of teenage drivers: A national study. Traffic Injury Prevention, 11(3), 240–248. doi:10.1080/15389580903578854

Russell, K. F., Vandermeer, B., & Hartling, L. (2011). Graduated driver licensing for reducing motor vehicle crashes among young drivers. Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online), (10), CD003300. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003300.pub3

Shope, J. T. (2007). Graduated driver licensing: Review of evaluation results since 2002. Journal of Safety Research, 38(2), 165–175. doi:10.1016/j.jsr.2007.02.004

University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, County Health Rankings and Roadmaps (2015). Strong graduated driver licensing laws. Retrieved September 29, 2017

Futher Reading

Branche, C., Williams, A. F., & Feldman, D. (2002). Graduated licensing for teens: Why everybody’s doing it. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, 30, 146.

Hedlund, J., & Compton, R. (2004). Graduated driver licensing research in 2003 and beyond. Journal of Safety Research, 35(1), 5–11. doi:10.1016/j.jsr.2003.10.004

McKnight, A. J., & Peck, R.C. (2002). Graduated driver licensing: What works? Injury Prevention, 8(Suppl. 2), ii32–ii38. doi:10.1136/ip.8.suppl_2.ii32

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (n.d.). Teen drivers: Graduated driver licensing.