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Graduated Drivers License Program now in effect

On January 1,2002 several new state laws went into effect. If you are the parent of a teenager who is preparing to become one of the thousands of new drivers this year, none may be as talked about in your household as Senate Bill 577, the Graduated Drivers License Program (GDL) which was passed by the Legislature last spring.

In 1998, more than 320 Texas teens, ages 15 through 18, died in motor vehicle crashes and another 40,324 were injured. More than 40 percent of teens’ fatal crashes occurred between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Single vehicle collisions represent nearly half of the fatal crashes involving 16 and 17-year-old drivers. These crashes have been linked to driver error, speed, peer passenger distraction, and lack of experience. The crash involvement rate for teens is more than double that for all other Texas drivers. While the legal driving age in Texas will remain 16, the graduated drivers license program makes some changes that all parents, young drivers and future drivers should know about

For those who start the licensing process after January 1, 2002, including those who have not received their instruction permit or provisional license, there will be two phases of the GDL. First, the minimum age for the licensed operator required to accompany an instruction permit holder in the front passenger seat is raised from 18 to 21. Many permit holders have friends who are 18 but may not have achieved responsible driving skills.
Additionally, in phase one of the GDL, applicants under age 18 must hold an instruction permit or hardship license for a minimum of six months prior to the issuance of a provisional license. Upon completion of this six-month period they will “graduate” to phase two.

When they reach phase two, newly licensed drivers will obtain a provisional license which will allow them to drive, but with certain restrictions for the first six months. They may not operate a motor vehicle after midnight and before 5 a.m., unless driving is necessary for employment, school, school-related activities or a medical emergency. And, they may not have more than one under 21 non-family member as a passenger in the vehicle.
The graduated drivers license program will allow new drivers to ease into driving with more safety restrictions in place. The operation of a motor vehicle is one of the biggest responsibilities that a teenager attains. By enacting the Graduated Drivers License Program, the Legislature was convinced that young Texans will be better trained to operate motor vehicles safely, benefiting them and all who use the roads.