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GDL Probationary License Restrictions

Studies show that drivers are at their highest lifetime crash risk the day they drive home alone from the DMV with their license. That’s why GDL provisions include probationary license restrictions. Also known as “provisional” or “junior” licenses depending on the state issuing them, these licenses include certain restrictions for a period of time to help new drivers gain experience under safe conditions. These probationary license restrictions work by reducing teens’ exposure to known factors associated with crash risk during their first months of independent driving, as well as giving them time to safely develop skills and maturity.

Probationary License Nighttime Driving Restrictions

The fatal crash rate of 16-year-old drivers is nearly twice as high at night. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 16- to 17-year-old drivers only drive 14 percent of the time between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., yet 32 percent of their crashes occur during those hours. In addition, 58 percent of teen nighttime crashes happen between 9 p.m. and midnight.

Studies have shown probationary license nighttime restrictions to be effective. States with them in place have reported up to a 60 percent reduction in crashes during the restricted hours. However, half of the states with GDL laws in place do not restrict driving until midnight or later.

Probationary License Peer Passengers Restrictions

Peer passengers also are a deadly distraction. Just one teen passenger doubles the risk a teen driver will get into a fatal crash; three or more passengers quadruples the risk, as the chart from a study published in JAMA
below shows.

Fatality Rates of 16 to 17-year-old Drivers By Number of Passengers

Number of Passengers





Fatalities per million trips





Source: Chen L, et al. (2000). Carrying passengers as a risk factor for crashes fatal to 16 and 17 year old drivers. JAMA, 238,1578-1617.

 Despite these dire statistics, a study conducted by The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) with support from State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company found that only 1 in 10 teens knows that giving a friend a ride is dangerous. This crash risk, however, is not just for the driver. Another CHOP/State Farm study found that starting at ages 12 to 14, a passenger’s risk of dying in a crash with a teen driver doubles, and the risk continues to rise for each teen year. Most teen passengers that died in crashes were riding with a teen driver.

Perhaps more astounding: Most teens do not consider themselves inexperienced drivers. Although 60 percent of teens believe inexperience heavily influences driving safety, only 15 percent consider their peers to be inexperienced. According to other qualitative research conducted by CHOP, teens may incorrectly associate having a license with experience, leading to a false sense of safety.

A teen with a probationary license must follow GDL.

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