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Why Novice Drivers Have Passenger Restrictions

The more the merrier? The more the scarier.

Graduated Driver’s License Programs

All 50 states and District of Columbia have a Graduated Driver’s License (GDL) program. GDL programs are designed to help new drivers gain driving experience over time and in a safe manner.

Typically, such a program contains three steps or phases. In most states, the first steps mean a learner’s permit and an intermediate license. The permit phase include supervised practice to allow young drivers to mature and develop their skills in the presence of an adult. The intermediate phase comes with several restrictions, including a limit on the number of passengers.

Why a Limit on the Number of Passengers?

The reason for the passenger restriction is the risk-taking behavior that peer pressure triggers. Studies by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that young, novice drivers are two-and-a-half times more likely to engage potentially risky behaviors when driving with one teenage peer compared to when driving alone. Studies also show that young men are more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior compared to women.

The More, The Scarier…

According to NHTSA, the risk of a fatal crash went up in direct relation to the number of teenagers in the car. When driving with multiple teenage peers, the likelihood increased to three times.

In the presence of peers, distractions for teen drivers like loud conversation and horseplay are more common. On the other hand, studies showed that electronic device use were less common in the presence of passengers.

Strong Laws Save Lives

Research shows that states with the strongest GDL laws also have manage to reduce teen driver deaths more than states with weaker laws. Raising the age limits and have teenagers wait longer before they get a permit or a full license, have also proven to saves lives.

Six states (Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, and South Dakota) have no or less strict rules for the number of passengers during the intermediate phase.

What You Must Know

If you are a young driver and apply for a permit or intermediate license you must know the minimum age for unsupervised driving, night curfews, and passenger limitations. All permit knowledge tests will have questions on GDL rules.

You should also know that most states have laws that restrict the use of electronic devices, like cell phones, for young drivers. 37 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers.

Check the Rules

Of course, permit test questions and answers on our practice tests also include GDL restrictions and rules. To look up a specific state’s requirements and what questions are likely to appear on your test, study your driver’s manual or driver handbook.


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