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Bright Futures

Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

October 20, 2021, Perez, Liz
Safe Teen Driving – Get the Facts
Safe Teen Driving – Get the Facts

As the parent of a teenage driver there’s a lot to consider and navigate. Whether your teen is about to start the process of getting their driver’s permit or already has a license, driving is a BIG responsibility. Newly licensed drivers need rules and guidelines to ensure safety on the road. A lot of things have also changed since we originally obtained our driver’s license, so it’s important to stay up to date and identify what the current requirements are to obtain a license. One of these tools is already in place and presented in all 50 states to help reduce the number of teen crashes. It is called Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws.

Graduated Driver Licensing laws are a three-phase licensing system. The first stage begins with a fully supervised learning period, followed by an intermediate/probationary phase, and concluding with unrestricted/full driving privileges. This program provides longer practice periods, limits driving under high-risk conditions for newly licensed drivers, and requires greater parent participation. GDL laws allow our young drivers to gain driving experience before obtaining full driving privileges. So, let’s take a further look at each stage:

Learner’s Permit

A learner’s permit requires supervision while driving, in combination with an on-road test. This first phase gives teens the opportunity to gain experience while being closely supervised by an adult. Some states allow your teen to obtain a learner’s permit at the age of 14 and others between 15-16 years of age. 

Note: In Arizona, a teen must be 15 years and 6 months old and meet all requirements. A licensed driver must be seated next to the teen at all times.

Provisional License

The next stage is a probationary license, which limits the number of passengers in the vehicle and nighttime driving. This intermediate phase provides a gradual increase in driving privileges. It gives a new driver the opportunity to drive alone, but with certain restrictions to limit exposure to high-risk conditions. Limitations on passengers and nighttime driving restrictions are only temporary as they occur during the first year of licensure.

Note: passenger restriction is limited in 47 states including D.C. during this phase. In addition, all states except Vermont restrict nighttime driving. In Arizona, teens must be at least 16 years and hold a permit for at least 6 months. 

Full Licensure

A full licensure is a standard driver’s license. There are no restrictions. This third phase allows teens to drive alone without restrictions. However, the requirements to attain this stage is to maintain a clean driving record during the probationary license period or be at least 18 years of age at the time of licensing.

Note: In Arizona, once teens reach the age of 18, they can apply for a Class D driver license.

It’s important to keep in mind that graduated driver licensing laws vary by state. However, they all have the same objectives: to expand the learning process, minimize crash risk exposure, improve driving skills, and increase motivation for safe driving behaviors. Learn about Arizona’s Graduated License instructions and requirements here.

Teens are more at risk than other drivers on the road. Per mile driven, teen drivers aged 16-19 are nearly three times as likely as drivers aged 20 or older to be in a fatal crash, according to the CDC. This is probably why so many of us parents are fearful when our teens embark on this very important rite of passage. GDL laws have proven to reduce the crash risk for beginning drivers, such as teens. They target key behaviors of teens in cars that are known to raise the risk of crashing.

Remember, driving is a complex skill and it must be practiced to develop critical skills in lower risk driving situations. As your teen begins on the path towards their driver’s license, it is important to understand how the GDL law works in your state. Familiarizing yourself with your state’s restrictions can better assist you in enforcing those rules.

Don’t be afraid to set driving ground rules with your teen and the consequence for breaking them. Put it in writing by using a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement. We parents have more influence on our teens than we think, so get involved in their driving habits from the beginning.

For a guideline on Arizona’s GDL law or a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement visit phoenixchildrens.org/roadsafety or contact us at: TeenDriving@phoenixchildrens.com.

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