Myths and Facts about Graduated Driver Licensing

Several misunderstandings or myths about graduated driver licensing have developed. These are addressed below.

Myth: GDL prevents teenagers from working and interferes with school activities

Fact: GDL only prevents beginning drivers, mainly those who have just turned 16, from engaging in recreational driving during restricted hours (between 9 pm and 5 am in North Carolina). Moreover, driving directly to or from work is permitted. This restriction lasts only six months for those drivers who keep a clean driving record. Teens are allowed to drive at any time of night for any purpose when accompanied by an adult driver.

Myth: GDL can interfere with school activities

Fact: GDL actually affects the general driving patterns of newly licensed teens very little and only for six months. Teens report little interference of GDL licensing conditions with any aspect of their lives.

Myth: GDL punishes everybody for mistakes that only some young drivers make.

Fact: GDL is designed to support and protect new drivers, not to punish them. It extends the driving privilege in steps, as new drivers demonstrate their competence and responsibility. The previous licensing system put inexperienced, emotionally immature beginners into the complex risky driving environment - with all too frequent tragic consequences. Contrary to common belief, most crashes among young drivers result simply from their inability to handle the situation, not from intentional foolish behavior characteristic of “troublemakers.” 

Myth: Alcohol is the main problem for young drivers. How does GDL affect that?

Fact: Although alcohol does contribute to teen driver crashes, it is a relatively minor factor for the majority of 16- and 17- year-old drivers. A much greater problem is impulsive, risky driving actions and the failure to make good judgments and decisions.

Myth: GDL is just another government attempt to protect people from themselves.

Fact: In fact, young beginning drivers commonly cause crashes in which both their passengers and occupants of other vehicles are hurt or killed. GDL is designed to protect everybody who uses the roadways, not just young drivers.

Myth: GDL represents government interference with parental rights.

Fact:  GDL is viewed extremely favorably by the vast majority of parents, with approval ranging from 85% - 90% of most parents. Most parents greatly appreciate that GDL restrictions closely parallel what parents believe are important protective limits for their teens during their early driving experience.

Myth: Simply improving Driver Education programs would solve the problem of young driver crashes. It isn't necessary to change the licensing system.

Fact: Although it can help teach beginners how to drive, there is no research evidence to suggest that Driver Education reduces crashes. A drastically revised approach might have some benefit, but such a program would be far more costly than the public seems willing to pay for at present.