Teen Driving Safety – Thinking Outside the Graduated Driver Licensing Laws Box

Teen Driving Safety – Thinking Outside the Graduated Driver Licensing Laws Box

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for US teens. Sixty-one percent of teen passengers are killed while riding with a teen driver. In response to those two statements, most US states and territories have adopted GDL laws. G.D.L. is the acronym for Graduated Driver Licensing. While G.D.L. is no guarantee your teen will avoid being cited or injured in a crash, there are ways that help evaluate the teen driver’s maturity and experience that may increase his or her safety.

If you have a teen itching to learn to drive, familiarizing yourself with the G.D.L. in your area will be one of the most important laws to understand. However thinking beyond the G.D.L. requirements and restrictions is essential for increasing teen driver safety. Parents are the key to teen driver safety when they know which ‘knowledge lock’ to open.

As an injury prevention educator for a local hospital, I teach youth and parent how to utilize G.D.L. components effectively. In an effort to reach more parents with this important information, I am sharing much of what I teach through a series of articles.

Most G.D.L. law components include: Supervised Driving minimum requirement; Sibling and Family Transport; Peer Transport; Curfew; Driving Log. These five components generally focus on minimum legal requirements but do not explain how to utilize the components effectively to include safety considerations.

The first article of this series explained how the role of Pre-frontal Cortex brain maturation is intricately involved in teen driving development and focused on how to help a teen develop well-practiced driving skills to prepare the teen for licensure.

Thinking Outside the G.D.L. Box for Passenger Restriction and Curfew

Passenger Restriction

While G.D.L. laws about passenger transport vary from state to state regarding sibling and family member vs. peer transport, it is important to note:

1. Younger siblings are the second hardest passengers to control; drunk passengers are the hardest to control;
2. Older siblings are often critical and upset the new driver;
3. Most G.D.L. laws allow the immediate transport of up to three peer passengers in the second 6-months of licensure;
4. The potential for a fatal crash nearly doubles when transporting three peer passengers;
5. Sixty-one percent of teens killed in car crashes are the passenger of a teen driver.

NOTE: Even as veteran drivers, parents have a difficult time controlling child passengers and drunks. Why would we think newly licensed teen drivers capable? Jeopardizing the teen driver and his passengers for convenience is dangerous. Protecting the teen driver and his passengers is risk management well within the control of parents.

Sibling and Peer Passenger Transport Strategies to Consider

Allow teen drivers to transport siblings after the first year of solo driving

Parents help Teens select peer passengers based on reliable behavior of teens under consideration

Once peer passenger transport is legal, allow teen drivers to only transport one peer passenger at a time during the first year of licensure

Allow two peer passenger transport in the second year of licensure

Postpone three peer passenger transport until the teen has driven without any citations or crashes for a minimum of 2.5 years

Parents should always be the driver when teams of teens need transporting and never rely on teen drivers to provide the transportation

Additionally, exposure to legal liability extends to parents as long as children are dependents taken as a tax deduction or parents pay the greater amount of support for youth beyond the age of 18 years old. Keeping in mind that car crashes are the leading cause of death for 15-20 year olds provides good reason for disallowing vehicle driving for college age youth when away at school until senior year. However, even veteran drivers out from behind the wheel for long periods need time to re-develop driving acuity therefore, driving acuity is also compromised for youth who do not drive for extended periods of time and therefore require a little ‘driving supervision’ before being allowed to drive solo again.


Most GDL laws include a Midnight-5:00 AM curfew. However, a large number of crashes involving teens occur right after school between 3:00-6:00 PM and over 40% of teen crashes occur between 9:00 PM-6:00 AM. Speeding and distractions are recognized as major contributors to night-time crashes for teens, but you may not realize that night time driving requires an additional skill set.

Curfew Safety Strategies to Consider

Focus on developing safe, solid and reliable day-time driving skills of the teen.

Periodically ride with the teen to evaluate if good driving habits are eroded by unsafe behaviors.

Practice night driving with the teen over a two-year period before allowing teens to drive at night.