Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Graduated Driver License program?

First implemented in Michigan and Florida in the mid-1990s, Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) is a three-step system designed to provide novice drivers with the necessary tools to be safe on our roadways and minimize those things that cause them the greatest risk of crash -- distraction caused by passengers and the use of cell phones and other electronic devices, as well as driving late at night and riding unbelted. There is a minimum age for teens to be eligible for a driver's permit, a mandatory holding period or probationary license and a basic or full license.  

What does Illinois's GDL program entail?

Young Illinois drivers must:
  1. Be 15 years old to obtain a learner's permit, which is the first step of a three-step process
  2. Complete 50 hours of driving - 10 of which must be at night - over the next nine months before they can obtain an intermediate, or restricted, license at age 16 (the second step)
  3. Refrain from driving unsupervised between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and after 11 p.m. on Friday or Saturday.
  4. Carry only one passenger younger than 20. This passenger restriction is lifted at age 17
  5. Be obtain to obtain a basic, or full, license and have all restrictions lifted. This is the third and final step in the process

Why does Illinois need a GDL program?

Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens, and their crash risk is four times that of an experienced driver. The risk is highest when teens are in the first 12 to 24 months of licensure.


The “License to Save” report issued by The Allstate Foundation in December 2011 estimates that 5,781 people in Illinois have been killed in teen-related motor vehicle crashes since 1991. It also estimates that 198 lives have been saved since Illinois implemented GDL laws. The implementation of GDL programs has saved approximately 14,820 lives nationwide since 1991. It is proven to reduce the number of motor vehicle crashes involving teen drivers.

Why are passengers dangerous for teen drivers?

Most teen crashes involve some form of distraction. While cell phone use clearly poses a danger to all motorists, passengers are particularly distracting to young drivers. A teen driver is twice as likely to be killed in a crash while carrying just one passenger, regardless of whether the passenger is a friend of a sibling. Carrying two passengers increases crash risk by 158 percent, and three passengers increases risk by 207 percent.

Why is nighttime driving risky for teen drivers?

Forty percent of all teen driver fatal crashes occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. While Illinois does not allow teens on the roadways after 11 p.m. or before 6 a.m., parents are encouraged to set earlier times for their teens to be off the roads.

May teen drivers use hands-free cell phones?

No. Illinois currently bans all cell phone use by drivers younger than 19 and learner’s permit holders under 19. Illinois has a handheld ban for all motorists in construction and school speed zones. Research clearly shows that both handheld and hands-free devices cause manual, cognitive and visual distraction and the National Safety Council and the National Transportation Safety Board have called for a nationwide ban on all cell phone use while driving for all motorists regardless of age or experience.

How can I help a teen driver gain more experience?

Research clearly shows that GDL programs are the most effective tool for addressing teen crash risk because they help novice drivers build skill while minimizing risk. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, coach, older sibling, neighbor or friend, learning about and enforcing the GDL program is important.

Parents in particular play a critical role in teen driver safety. Teens who report having parents that set rules and monitor their activities in a helpful and supportive way are half as likely to crash, 71 percent less likely to drive intoxicated, 30 percent less likely to use a cell phone while driving and 50 percent more likely to wear a safety belt. By partnering with parents, you can help to ensure that they know about and leverage the proven principles of GDL so their teens gain skill and become good drivers for life.