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Directions in Highway Safety, Summer 2008 Cover Page Download Newsletter pdf
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Late Winter 2008 | Vol. 10 | No. 4

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Graduated Driver Licensing: Translating Science into Action

By: John Ulczycki
Executive Director, Transportation Safety Group
National Safety Council

In February of 2007, the National Safety Council hosted the second international Symposium on Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL). More than 100 researchers, public policy advocates, federal and state highway safety and injury prevention practitioners and representatives from related private sector industries (insurance and automobile manufacturing) examined the latest scientific research on teen driving and graduated licensing.

The purpose of the Symposium was to update our knowledge on several aspects of GDL, including teen driving performance, behaviors, effects of GDL laws on crash reduction, effects of parenting behaviors on teen driving safety, driver education and how GDL can be improved. The focus of the Symposium was on GDL and not necessarily on the full range of interventions that are being used to address the teen driving problem, such as teen peer programs or parental education initiatives.

What did we learn?
First, the latest research confirms that three components of Graduated Driver Licensing systems for novice young drivers are proven to be effective: extended learner permit holding periods, nighttime driving restrictions and passenger restrictions.

Second, four components of GDL systems may be effective, but additional research is needed to document the specific degree of effectiveness: supervised driving requirements, cell phone restrictions, seat belt use requirements and contingent advancement.

Now that we know this, what can we do now? Where do we go from here?
First, we can encourage the Governors and legislatures to better understand and adopt GDL in our states. States that enact comprehensive GDL systems have shown significant reductions in crashes, injuries and fatalities involving teens.

Second, we all must continue to work together to educate the public about each state's requirements on extended learner's permit holding periods, nighttime driving restrictions and passenger restrictions. While nearly every state has enacted at least one component of a GDL system, most states fall short of establishing a comprehensive GDL system. No state can say without equivocation that it has a perfect GDL system in effect (though a few states are pretty close). However, parents anywhere can be educated to understand that they can establish a state-of-theart GDL system in their families, regardless of the laws in effect in their state.

Third, we in the highway safety community can unite with one voice in asking the U.S. Congress to include teen driving interventions and support for GDL in the next surface transportation reauthorization act. Many state highway safety officials have expressed the belief that financial incentives to states could be effective in encouraging legislators to enact comprehensive GDL systems.

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The knowledge gleaned from the Symposium is available at the National Safety Council website to help state highway officials and advocates in their legislative and public education initiatives. All of the presentations delivered at the Symposium are available for viewing or download, including the PowerPoint slides and audio of the presentations. In addition, we have prepared fact sheets that concisely summarize the current state of knowledge on these six topics: Extended Learner's Permit Holding Periods, Nighttime Driving Restrictions, Passenger Restrictions, Technology, Key GDL Influences and Partners and Next Steps: Research, Evaluation & Implementation. These fact sheets can be particularly useful in sharing GDL knowledge with parents and legislators.

The presentations and the fact sheets are available through free download from the National Safety Council's website at