GDL Laws…What Are They?


GDL Laws…What Are They?

By: Owen Foster-Hickey | SADD National Student Leadership Council

If you’re a teen like me, you’re probably looking forward to getting your license and gaining some extra freedom and responsibility with a set of keys. However, there are a few steps that need to be taken before you get behind the wheel of a car and go. After all, you wouldn’t jump into a pool without learning how to swim first, right? With the help of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws, you’ll safely gain the driving experience you need during lower risk times and situations, before obtaining full driving privileges. 

There are three stages that each young driver needs to complete as part of their state's GDL requirements. The first stage is the learner stage, involving supervised driving and a driving test. Next is the intermediate stage, which limits unsupervised driving in high-risk situations, for example, driving at night. Lastly, the final stage of a GDL program is the full privilege stage, where the driver reaches its goal of obtaining a standard driver’s license. As a teen, this three-step process may feel complicated and overwhelming, but it serves to help you refine and perfect your driving skills in various conditions, as you learn to master the art of driving.  

Fatal teen crashes are a critical public health issue that is combated with the legal response of GDL laws. Back in 1996, my home state of Florida was the first state to adopt graduated licensing. Today, each state has some form of GDL laws, each differing slightly. If you aren’t familiar with your state's GDL laws, view them here. According to the CDC, all fifty states and the District of Columbia generally include seven main components to these laws:

  • Minimum age to obtain a learner permit
  • Mandatory holding period for the learner permit
  • Minimum number of hours of supervised driving during the learner permit stage—both daytime and nighttime
  • Minimum age to obtain an intermediate license
  • Nighttime driving restrictions during the intermediate stage
  • Passenger restrictions during the intermediate stage
  • Minimum age for full licensing


Some states have applied additional restrictions on young drivers, including:

  • Cell phone bans
  • Texting bans
  • Seat belt requirements
  • Zero tolerance for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Stronger penalties for offenses that during the intermediate stage
  • Minimum standards for driver education


Even after you obtain your license, you still have to continue working on your driving skills. They say it can take 10,000 hours to perfect or master a skill. Take this into consideration when working to understand GDL laws and the vital role they serve for novice drivers. There’s a lot to learn when it comes to driving, and GDL laws will help you gradually build necessary experience in your early years behind the wheel. Spend some time brushing up on the basics of driving with SADD and the National Road Safety Foundation’s #DrivingSkills101 Passport to Safe Driving as you work through the three stages of your state's GDL program. Drive safely, SADD Nation!

Written By: Anonymous (not verified)