Effectiveness of graduated driver licensing in reducing motor vehicle crashes

Am J Prev Med. 1999 Jan;16(1 Suppl):47-56. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(98)00112-3.


Objective: To determine whether graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems and nighttime curfews reduce motor vehicle crashes, fatalities, or injuries among young drivers.

Methods: We used Cochrane Collaboration search strategies to locate studies of graduated licensing or night driving restrictions. Studies were selected if they examined the effects of either (1) a comprehensive graduated driver licensing system including well-integrated components, or (2) nighttime driving restrictions/curfews that could affect young persons' nighttime driving, on a clearly defined crash or injury outcome. Seven studies met inclusion criteria.

Results: Two independent studies of the New Zealand graduated licensing program found a sustained 7%-8% reduction in teen driver crash injuries attributable to the program. No other full graduated licensing system has been evaluated to date. Four studies of either a general curfew or a nighttime driving restriction for teens, a key element of graduated licensing, found substantial crash reductions during restricted hours, with 23%-25% lower crash injury and fatality rates for curfews beginning prior to midnight. One study found no change in late night crashes before and after a 1 a.m.-6 a.m. night driving restriction took effect.

Conclusions: The logic and empirical bases for graduated licensing are sound. Moreover, there is evidence that one central element, a restriction on nighttime driving by novices, reduces young driver crashes. However, a definitive conclusion about the effectiveness of GDL systems for reducing motor vehicle crashes or crash-related injuries must await examination of other GDL systems. This should be possible within the next few years, as several states and Canadian provinces have recently enacted GDL programs.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control*
  • Automobile Driving / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Humans
  • Licensure*
  • United States