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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 Tennessee's GDL program entail?

Young Tennessee drivers must:
 
  • Be 15 years old to obtain a permit
  • Complete 50 hours of supervised driving - 10 of which must be at night - before obtaining an intermediate, or restricted, license at age 16
  • Not drive unsupervised between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., when a teen's crash risk is highest
  • Not carry more than 1 passenger during the intermediate licensure stage
  • Be 17 to obtain a basic, or full, unrestricted license

Why does Tennessee 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 5,254 people in Tennessee have been killed in teen-related motor vehicle crashes since 1991. It also estimates that 572 lives have been saved since Tennessee 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, and 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 Tennessee 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. Tennessee bans cell phone use – hands-free or handheld – for teen drivers in the learner’s permit and intermediate phases of licensure. All drivers in Tennessee are prohibited from texting while driving. 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. 

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.