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GDL Identifiers and Decals

Many countries, including Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and France, have required Graduated Driver License (GDL) holders to identify their licensing status through the use of placards or decals (also known as L-plates and P-plates). These GDL identifiers and decals are required to be highly visible on any vehicle novice teen drivers operate. While some of these provisions have been in place for decades, they are a new concept for GDL in the United States. To date, only New Jersey requires the use of GDL decals by its learner and intermediate drivers.

The main purpose of decals is to aid with enforcement of GDL provisions among novice teen drivers. While numerous US studies of GDL and specific GDL provisions have demonstrated GDL's effectiveness in reducing novice teen driver crashes, the effectiveness of GDL provisions overall has been limited by the inability of police to enforce them. Without an identifier, it is difficult for law enforcement officers to easily determine who is a learner or intermediate driver without a traffic stop and visual inspection of the license.

Experts believe decals may increase the ability of police to enforce GDL and teens’ willingness to comply with GDL restrictions and other important traffic safety laws, as well as alert others to drive safely around a novice. Further research is needed to determine causal pathways.

A recent CHOP study of NJ's decal provision, implemented in May 2010, shows that NJ youth and other road users are safer as a result of its implementation. According to the research, the decal provision is associated with a two-year decline in crash rates among intermediate teen drivers. After accounting for age, gender, calendar month, unleaded gas price, and crash trends among older licensed drivers, the researchers found in the first two years after the new decal requirement took effect, the crash rate for young intermediate drivers declined 9.5 percent as compared to the previous four years pre-decal. In fact, they found that crash involvement of an estimated 3,197 intermediate drivers was prevented in the first two years post-decal.

A previous CHOP study on the decal’s first year of implementation found a 14 percent increase in the rate of GDL-related citations issued to intermediate drivers, although the increase seemed to be concentrated in the few months after implementation.

For more information on decal requirements as part of GDL and other GDL initiatives, read this report from the Traffic Injury Research Foundation -- A New GDL Framework: Evidence Base to Integrate Novice Driver Strategies.

GDL NJ decal

Boost Your State's GDL

Watch a webinar on advocating for a decal provision in your state. - See more at:

Access a recent webinar on advocating for a decal provision in your state.

Share this fact sheet with policymakers to enact a decal provision as part of a comprehensive GDL program.

Watch a video about CHOP's 2012 study evaluating New Jersey's year one implementation of the decal.


Further reading:

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