Graduated Driver Licensing

Graduated Driver Licensing

Jun 2017

In April 2004, young people in certain German states were for the first time given the opportunity to enjoy “accompanied driving” from the age of 17 (BF 17). In 2008, this was rolled out across all federal states. To assess the impact of this measure on road safety, two large random samples were analyzed in a 2011 study: former BF 17 drivers, and drivers who passed their driving test at the regular minimum age of 18. The results showed that, in their first year of independent driving, former BF 17 drivers suffered 17% fewer accidents and committed 15% fewer traffic violations than drivers of the same age who had obtained their driver’s license in the conventional way. If mileage is used as a basis, this results in a reduction in the number of accidents and traffic violations by another 4 percentage points (23% accidents, 22% traffic violations). These figures were verified by an independent random check. In 2009, therefore, accompanied driving from the age of 17 helped to prevent around 1,700 accidents resulting in personal injury. However, although it was also shown that the positive effect of accompanied driving from the age of 17 extends into the second year of unaccompanied driving, the effect declines from then on.

This “accompanied driving” model is used in other countries, too, most successfully in France, Belgium, Austria, Spain, Canada and some US states. The criteria that qualify someone to act as an accompanying person vary from country to country. In Germany, for example, they must be at least 30 years old and have been in possession of a valid Class B (car) driver’s license for at least 5 years. In addition, they must have no more than one point on their license at the time the person they are to accompany is granted the test certificate, on which they must be specified by name. In Austria, the accompanying person must have been in possession of a B driver’s license for at least 7 years and must be able to credibly demonstrate that they have actually been regularly driving a car or van for the past three years. In addition, they must not have committed any serious traffic violation in the last three years; a complete ban on alcohol also applies during accompanied drives (limit: 0.1). In Belgium, the accompanying person must have been in possession of a driver’s license for at least 6 years. However, since experienced drivers are prone to bad habits and mistakes even after a few years of driving, and given that legal amendments may be made of which the accompanying person is unaware, accompanying persons in Belgium have been additionally required to complete refresher training since the beginning of 2017.

The US has introduced the concept of graduated driver licensing (GDL). GDL rules impose a three-level system of restrictions on young drivers:

  • Learning stage: driving only under supervision, culminating in a driving test
  • Transition phase: mainly unaccompanied driving, but only under certain conditions such as an absolute alcohol ban; limits on the number of young passengers; nighttime driving with accompaniment only
  • Full-privilege stage: standard driver’s license

This concept was first introduced in Florida in 1996; since then it has been rolled out in identical or modified form across all US states. And the results are impressive: According to studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the associated Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), the number of traffic fatalities among car drivers aged between 15 and 20 fell by 51% between 2005 and 2014. Nonetheless, in 2014, no fewer than 1,717 young drivers aged between 15 and 20 died in road accidents, with an estimated 170,000 injured. Furthermore, in 2014, 9% of drivers involved in fatal accidents were aged between 15 and 20. In New Zealand, where the DEKRA subsidiary Vehicle Testing New Zealand (VTNZ) has been responsible for practical driving tests since May 2015, a three-stage GDL applicable to all novice drivers aged between 15 and 24 was introduced back in 1987. The licensing process is divided into three stages: learner’s license, restricted license and full license.