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Project Dates
01/01/2008 - 06/30/2009
Principal Investigators
Project Status

Beginning teenage drivers (e.g., those ages 16 – 18) have extremely high crash rates due to lack of driving experience as well as youthful impulsiveness. For people 15 to 20 years of age, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death (NHTSA, 2006). The risk of crashing is higher for teenage drivers per mile driven, per licensed driver, and per population age cohort (Williams, 2003). Teenage drivers have been found to have disproportionate numbers of crashes at night and when other teenagers are riding with them. They also are less likely to wear seat belts, and more likely to drive older and smaller cars and to get less sleep than older drivers. (Hedlund, Shults, Compton, 2003)

Graduated driver licensing (GDL) has become a popular measure to reduce the involvement of teenage drivers in crashes; 47 of the 51 licensing jurisdictions (50 states plus the District of Columbia) have enacted a three stage GDL system (IIHS, 2007). The main objectives of GDL are to provide young novice drivers with “practice in developing driving skills over an extended period of time, and increased time in supervised behind-the-wheel training during daylight and nighttime hours” (NHTSA, 1998). Typically, there are three stages in GDL: learner’s permit (stage 1), intermediate license (stage 2), and full or unrestricted license (stage 3). During stage 1, adult supervision while driving is required at all times. Stage 2 allows unsupervised driving, but includes restrictions to limit driving under conditions know to be highly risky for beginning drivers – nighttime driving and driving with multiple young passengers (Williams, 2007). Following completion of the intermediate stage, which typically lasts from 6 to 12 months, young drivers are eligible to obtain a full or unrestricted license.

Numerous evaluations of GDL programs have shown a reduction in crashes among 16 year-old drivers and many have shown decreases among 17 year-olds as well (Shope, 2007). The size of the crash reduction varies considerably depending on the nature of a state’s GDL program and the particular study design employed (Shope, 2007). More comprehensive programs generally produce greater benefits (Chen et al., 2006; Morrisey et al, 2006).

New Jersey’s Graduated Driver Licensing Program

New Jersey implemented a GDL program on January 1, 2001 and amended it in 2002. Before 2001, learner permits were available at age 16 if the teenager was enrolled in driver education. Until the completion of the class, they had to be accompanied by a driver education instructor. Drivers with learner permits were not allowed to drive between 12:01 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Those who waited until age 17 to apply for a learner’s permit had to be accompanied by a licensed driver with 3 years of experience and the permit had to be held for 20 days. Permits issued to applications age 17 and older were valid for 90 days. A full unrestricted license was available at age 17.

Under the current GDL system, drivers of all ages have to follow a three-stage process. For 16-year-old drivers who enroll in a driver education course, the three stages are: special learner’s permit, provisional license, and basic license (explained below). For drivers 17 and older, the stages are: examination permit, provisional license, and basic license. The last two stages are the same for drivers of all age groups. For all drivers, a vision test and a written test are required before any permits or licenses are issued .