A new driver is safest when supervised by a licensed adult driver. That’s why minimum Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) provisions call for at least 50 hours of supervised driving practice during the learner’s permit phase. Teen crash risk is the highest it will ever be the first day of driving without an adult and remains high during the first 6 months or 1,000 miles of unsupervised driving. This crash risk doesn’t match the adult risk until age 25. That’s why it’s so important to do everything we can to help new drivers gain the experience they need before going out on the road alone. The best way to achieve this is with 65 hours of adult supervised practice driving.
This supervised driving experience helps teens better understand that learning to drive is much more than knowing the rules of the road and how to steer, reverse, make turns, and park. It’s a complex skill to master, one that also involves knowing when and how to interact with other road users and additional factors that are not always within one’s control. That’s why teens need adult supervised practice driving to go beyond the mechanics by providing specific guidance on navigating various road conditions and other matters.
Although some legislators believe that this number of hours places an undue burden on busy working parents/guardians, studies conducted with parents and teenagers in states with strong GDL laws in place found just the opposite. In particular, parents and teens in California and Michigan reported exceeding the required 50 hours of supervised driving practice. This 50 hours doesn’t always have to be logged with a parent or guardian. A trusted adult relative, family friend, or driving instructor can fulfill this role. According to a recent CHOP study that surveyed 945 parents of newly-licensed drivers, 61 percent practiced 50 or more hours with their teen drivers. Although the majority of parents surveyed found practice driving challenging, they still chose to do it.
Other countries require even more hours of supervised practice during the learner permit phase. Based on some research conducted in Australia, one state there requires 120 hours. Another way to look at it: Research shows that it takes approximately 2,000 hours of practice to be considered proficient in a given talent or skill and 10,000 hours to reach the expert level.
Driving is a complex skill that takes years to master. Requiring at least 65 hours of supervised driving practice while learning is an important step in helping to develop safe, smart drivers.