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Graduated licensing growing in popularity

By: staff

Date: Sunday, 01. October 2006

The rules for getting a driver's license vary widely around the world, from minimal requirements to extremely stringent regulations. One trend is readily apparent, though-a move toward a graduated process of acquiring a full driver's license in three stages.

Graduated licensing, as it is known, was pioneered in New Zealand, the U.S. state of Florida, and the Canadian province of Ontario. But the idea has since been adopted by most Canadian provinces, the Australian state of Victoria, and 30 states in the USA.

Essentially, graduated licensing is a system designed to phase in young beginners to full driving privileges as they mature and develop their driving skills. There are three stages in a graduated system and beginners must remain in each of the first two stages for a set minimum time. The three stages consist of a supervised learner's period, an intermediate license period after passing an initial driving test, and, finally, full driving privileges if no infractions were recorded during the intermediate period. Some jurisdictions require drivers to pass a second, more rigorous road test.

Restrictions during the intermediate period vary among jurisdictions. Some, for example, impose a ban on late-night driving and the transportation of teenage passengers-two of the highest risk situations that young drivers may encounter. Needless to say, consumption of alcohol before driving is another no-no.

In the United States, the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances has developed a model graduated licensing law using recommendations from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and other organizations that embody the key elements mentioned above. However, some state laws either meet or exceed these core requirements while others have just some of them.

The U.S.-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has a handy table listing state-by-state minimum requirements such as age and amount of supervised driving. This table is available over the Internet at the institute's web site.

Outside the USA, the laws also vary from one jurisdiction to another. Ontario, for instance, has no ban on youngsters in the intermediate phase from driving at night or carrying teenage passengers.

Does graduated licensing save lives?

The evidence to date suggests it does. In Florida, which instituted a graduated system for drivers under 18, there was a 9 per cent reduction in fatal and injury crash involvement for 15 to 17-year-olds in 1997, the first full year of graduated licensing, compared with 1995.

In Ontario, a report issued in 1998 showed that overall collisions by novice drivers were down by 31 per cent and that the fatality rate for new drivers was down 24 per cent. The province adopted a three-phase graduated licensing system in 1994.

New Zealand was first off the mark in 1987 with a graduated licensing system. Evaluations have identified a continuing 8 per cent reduction in the proportion of drivers aged 15-19 involved in crashes. However, New Zealand still has the third worst record in the OECD for crashes involving drivers in the15 to 24 -year-old group.

In 1999, New Zealand upgraded its driver licensing rules introducing such measures as the need for learner drivers to display 'L' plates similar to those used for years in the U.K. and making the graduated licensing system apply to all new drivers, regardless of age.

The age at which youngsters can legally drive around un-chaperoned has always sparked an emotional tug-of-war among parents, concerned about safety on the one hand and giving their children independence on the other. This is particularly true in rural areas where out-of-school activities or the need to drive farm vehicles places a heavy demand on the adults.

Still, surveys have shown that parents strongly support graduated licensing. In Florida, 95 per cent of parents were found to support a minimum period of supervised driving. Ninety per cent favored night driving restrictions, 60 per cent favored restricting teen passengers during the first few months of driving, and 74 per cent favored a graduated licensing system that includes all of these components.

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All Comments (7)

Showing 1 - 7 comments

jeremy rotte,

most of the accidents that happen here in kingman AZ is from all the young drivers that most have an addiction to alcohol. I am not saying its qa bad thing its just why waste uour life drinking and driving when you could be out there succeeding.


All Australian states have GLS and have for many decades. We also have a minimum solo driving age of 17 or 18. The GLS applies regardless of age in most states.


Recently, here in Victoria (Australia) we had 6 differnt fatalities (all in one week)from young drivers.

This is and was a waste of life. Ten years ago the road toll for the same period was 27 people of varying skills.

Anything methodology that assists in the reduction of the death toll and associated destruction of family life impacting on society, I will always support. As opposed to 20 years ago, there are now another million (overstated) or more cars on every road (percentages mean nothing, when it is people dying). A graduated system allows for new drivers to gain the necessary skills to successfully interact with the rest of the driving community without loosing their lives.

The last thing that any parrent wants is t obury their child, whether or not they are 17 or 25, lets continue with an ongoing effort to educate young drivers and the wider community of raod users.



I am an instructor in NZ and have some 47 years of experince internationally.

I arrived 14 years ago to NZ and was amazed at the starting age and no requirement for car insurance.

As has been mentioned we seem to have started off the GDLS system but have fallen well behind what I am reading here.

Unfortuntely we have no consquences for actions here and we see young drivers consistantly dying on the roads in crashes,I supose this is the unltimate consequence of bad driving, driving cars with 300bhp or more, running up large amounts of fines and then having them cancelled as they have no intention of paying,

Breaking licencing rules are the norm here and although the NZ government are thinking about young drivers being accompanied for a year instead of six months I forsee that we will have more of the same.

Would be interested in some of yoiur replies.


Part of the number of applicants has to also deal with the price of the courses. For example, when I took my GDL courses 5 years ago, it was $110 for segment I and $90 for segment II. As opposed to now where it's well over $250 for segment I and $175+ for segment II. (This is in Michigan). I'm not sure what prices are like in other states though.


As a fellow instructor in the state of New Mexico, My question is whethor or not GDL laws result in a decrease of new driver applicants. If so do GDL states see a rise in 18 or older accident rates because of applicants skipping the GDL's lengthy process and driving Illegally? If anyone has information on this please advise at


Thanks for the succint review of GDL as an issue. It will be of benefit to fellow researchers if you are able to document your sources in the future.

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