The GDL Program and Driver Ed Process

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Programs

Many states have what’s referred to as a “Graduated Driver Licensing” (GDL) program. GDL programs are meant to ease young drivers into the privileges and responsibilities of driving by creating a series of stages they must go through to gain their full driver license. Most GDL programs contain three stages:

Stage One: Learner Permit

The first stage in the process is the learner permit stage. In this stage, beginning drivers are granted a learner permit after passing a vision test and knowledge test on traffic laws and signs. Some GDL programs require that students be enrolled in or have partially completed a driver education requirement before they get their learner permit, while others allow teens to get their learner permit without it.

During this stage, beginning drivers are permitted to practice driving under the supervision of an older licensed driver. States have different requirements for how long young drivers must hold their learner permit before they can apply for their provisional license.

Stage Two: Provisional License

In order to graduate to the next stage in the GDL program, young drivers usually have to hold their learner permit for a certain period of time, complete a driver education requirement, and pass a driving skills exam. Once the young driver earns their provisional license, they may drive without the supervision of an older licensed driver seated in the front passenger seat. Generally, there are restrictions on how many passengers the driver can carry as well as what time of day they can drive. Many states also restrict drivers with a provisional license from using a wireless device while driving.

Stage Three: Full License

Most GDL programs will grant full license privileges to provisional license holders automatically when they turn 18. Some GDL programs will grant full license privileges to provisional license holders earlier if they hold their provisional license for a specified period of time. Once a young driver graduates to this stage, they no longer have passenger restrictions or restrictions on what time of day they can drive.

The Driver Ed Process

Most states require some form of driver education for drivers under age 18 to get their license. There are usually two parts to driver education: the classroom/theory portion and the behind-the-wheel training portion. The classroom/theory portion of driver education covers subjects such as traffic laws, traffic signals, traffic signs, pavement markings, right-of-way, and defensive driving techniques. This portion of driver education may range from 5 to 32 hours, depending on the state. The behind-the-wheel training portion of driver education must be done with a licensed driving instructor. He or she will teach the teen how to perform basic vehicle maneuvers such as backing, turning, maintaining good lane positioning, and parallel parking. Generally, 6 hours is required for this portion of driver education, though this may vary from state to state. Some states may also require an additional set number of hours of practice driving to be done. These practice hours can be done with a parent or guardian.

Some states also have driver education requirements for adults. These courses are generally much shorter (around 5-6 hours) and often do not have a behind-the-wheel component.

Even if your state does not require driver education, driver education courses are a great way to become familiar with the rules of the road and defensive driving techniques. Studies show that drivers who take driver education courses are less likely to be involved in collisions or to have traffic violations than those without driver education.

Safe2Drive offers driver education courses in several states. Click the "View Driver Ed Courses" button below to see if we have a Driver Ed course in your state.