The genesis of GDL
Authors: Patricia F. Waller
This paper discusses the early research that lead to graduated driver licensing, some of the educational principals on which it is based, obstacles to its acceptance, and some of the early efforts in the U.S. and elsewhere. EARLY RESEARCH: The research underlying the concept of graduated driver licensing was a 1971 North Carolina study that identified the overrepresentation of young drivers in crashes at night and when another young person was the right front passenger. EDUCATIONAL PRINCIPALS: Efforts to reduce the risk to young novice drivers applied what was known about learning. The concepts included distributed learning (i.e., over time) and progressing from simple to complex skills. A PROPOSAL: The proposed graduated licensing system based on learning principals included (a) initial experience under low risk conditions, (b) extended supervised practice, (c) gradual move to more complex conditions, and (d) harsher penalties for deliberate risk-taking. OBSTACLES: There were several most common objections raised against graduated licensing. Raising the licensing age decreased mobility. Some young drivers were "good" drivers. Enforcement is difficult. Fear of parental objections. Parents are not driver educators and some young people do not have an available parent. Administrative costs are too high. ACCEPTANCE: Driver educators were the first to see the benefits of a graduated system in the 1970s and 1980s. Toronto nearly adopted a graduated system in 1976. New Zealand was the first to adopt a graduated licensing system in 1984. Michigan in 1997 was the first state to require parental certification of extended supervised driving practice.