Graduated driver licensing

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Graduated driver licensing systems (GDLS) are designed to provide new drivers of motor vehicles with driving experience and skills gradually over time in low-risk environments. There are typically three steps or stages through which new drivers pass. They begin by acquiring a learner's permit, progress to a restricted, probationary or provisional license, followed by receipt of a full driver's license.[1] Graduated drivers' licensing generally restricts nighttime, expressway, and unsupervised driving during initial stages, but lifts these restrictions with time and further testing of the individual, eventually concluding with the individual attaining a full driver's license.


Acquiring a learner’s permit typically requires a minimum age and passing vision and knowledge (written) tests. These tests usually assess the participant's knowledge of road signs and how to deal with hypothetical situations (e.g. junctions) while on the road. Parental or guardian permission may be required if below a specified age. Those who hold a learner’s permit must generally drive under the supervision of a licensed driver that meets the requirements of a supervisor, not be affected by alcohol or other drugs, and there may be restrictions imposed on maximum speed that a learner driver can drive, the types of road that can be driven, and even on the use of mobile phones (cell phones). There may also be limits imposed on the number of passengers in the vehicle, and learner drivers may be required to be free of moving violations and at-fault accidents or crashes for a minimum period of time before moving to the next stage. In many jurisdictions a learner driver is required to display an L sign clearly on the vehicle to indicate to other road users that training and supervised driving is being undertaken. Learner drivers may also be required to complete a logbook of their driving experience, which must be certified or countersigned by a supervising driver or driver trainer.[2]

The transition for a learner license to an intermediate, provisional or probationary license typically requires a minimum age and usually requires the learner driver to pass an on-road driving test, although in some jurisdictions there may be alternative licensing paths offered involving a continuous process of competency based training and assessment under the guidance and instruction of an accredited driver trainer.

Those who receive an intermediate, provisional or probationary license may drive without supervision, although driving at certain times (typically after midnight until around sunrise) and driving with passengers in the vehicle may require the presence of a supervising driver who is fully licensed. Drivers typically must remain free of moving violations and at-fault accidents for a specified period of time. In some places, drivers with these licenses must have no alcohol or other drugs in their blood while they are driving, and may be restricted to certain maximum speeds and from using mobile phones. In some jurisdictions, an intermediate, provisional or probationary driver is required to display a P sign on the outside of the vehicle to indicate to other road users and police of their license status (and hence of restrictions that may apply).

Receipt of a full drivers license typically requires a specific minimum age, a minimum time period of driving experience, and may require the passing of a final road test of driving skills or the passing of a hazard perception test.

The first graduated driver licensing systems involving a learner licensing phase, an intermediate, provisional or probationary licensing phase, and full licensing were developed in Australia in the 1960s,[citation needed] but the advocacy of graduated driver licensing in North America is associated with Professor Patricia Waller, of the University of North Carolina Injury Prevention Research Center and later the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, commencing in the 1970s[citation needed].

North American graduated driver licensing systems emerged in the late 1980s and 1990s (and were heavily influenced by a revamped graduated licensing system introduced in New Zealand in the 1980s, itself based on Waller's writings)[citation needed], and have now been adopted in almost all US and Canadian jurisdictions. These systems place particular emphases on passenger restrictions and night time driving curfews for young drivers.

In contrast, the approach of European graduated driver licensing systems places much greater emphasis on the training experiences of learner drivers prior to solo driving, with a lesser focus on license restrictions at the intermediate, provisional or probationary licensing phase.[citation needed] Young drivers in European graduated driver licensing systems are typically older, as minimum licensing ages are older than most other countries. As well, most learner driver experience is obtained through professional driving instructors rather than through ad hoc supervision.[citation needed]

The Australian approaches to graduated driver licensing reflect and extend the thinking underpinning the North American and European approaches[citation needed], combining restrictions on young drivers with intensive training requirements but also adding significant enforcement (zero tolerance with regard to speeding, driving while impaired by alcohol or other drugs, and the use of mobile telephones by young drivers) and penalty components (particularly the suspension of a drivers license for offenses, the impounding of motor vehicles, and opportunities to attend traffic offender intervention programs as part of the penalty process).[citation needed] As in Europe, minimum licensing ages in Australian graduated driver licensing systems are older than in the North American graduated driver licensing systems, and most learner drivers in Australia also receive driver training from professional driving instructors as well as practice under informal driving supervision[citation needed]. Critical features of the Australian graduated driver licensing systems are the mandatory display of L and P plates on the front and back of vehicles driven by learner drivers and provisionally licensed drivers, and the compulsory carriage of a drivers license which facilitates police identification of young drivers and their vehicles.[citation needed]

Graduated licensing and insurance[edit]

The automobile insurance industry generally supports graduated licensing. However, some youth rights advocates have accused insurance companies of charging premiums to new and young drivers in GDL jurisdictions that are not substantially less than premiums in non-GDL jurisdictions, even though graduated licensing supposedly reduces the risk of accidents. This issue is generally restricted to jurisdictions with private auto insurance. Most state-run automobile insurance schemes do not discriminate on account of age or driving experience.


South Africa[edit]

In South Africa, a time-based graduated licensing system is used. To attain a full driving license, an individual must first attain a 'Learner's license'. The individual must be 16 to obtain a motor cycle learner's licence; 17 years old to be able to attain a learner's license to operate a 'light motor vehicle', and 18 years old to be able to attain a learner's license to operate a heavy duty motor vehicle. Once the learner's license is issued, the individual has two years to attain their full license. The K53 system is the correct standard. The K53 manuals may be located on the Arrive Alive website. It is recommended that learner drivers secure the assistance of a qualified, professional driving instructor.

There are three different categories of learner licenses:[citation needed]

  • Code 1: motorcycles with an engine capacity below 125cc
  • Code 2: motor vehicles (except motorcycles) with gross vehicle mass of 3 500 kilograms or less
  • Code 3: all vehicles (except motorcycles) with a gross vehicle mass exceeding 3500 kg, you will need to be 18 years of age or older


Hong Kong[edit]

Hong Kong uses a graduated licensing system regardless of the driver's age. A new license of private cars(No.1), mini vans(No.2) and motorcycles(No.3) uses provisional license system called Probationary Driving Licence. While the others have extra requirements upon licensing.

However, drivers already having No.2 licenses for at least 3 years, with no less than two years of non-provisional driving license may be exempted from the probation or No.1 license (but not vice versa).

Driver on probation must comply with a 12-month minimum restricted period. They must comply the following rule while driving on the respected vehicles

  • Placing a proper white plate with red letter "P" in front and rear of the vehicle
  • The speed limit is 70 km/h or the road's speed limit, lower if applicable
  • Cannot drive on the overtaking lane on highways
  • Cannot carry passengers (for motorcyclists only)

Probation period will be extended for 6 months if mild driving regulations are violated, and the probation license voided for severe violation or 2 mild violation. This rule also applies while driving on vehicles not on probation.

For the licenses other than 1,2,3, the applicant must comply all of the requirements below upon application, which are:

  • Over the age of 21
  • Is a Hong Kong permanent resident, or not subjected to any condition of stay
  • Have been driven in Hong Kong or recognized area for 3 years for cars or mini vans, and should have no less than 2 years for non-provisional driving license
  • Have no designated traffic offence record for past 5 years
  • Are fulfilled with other extra requirements, if any.



In Germany there are two elements of the graduated driver licensing:

  • At the age of 17 it’s allowed, after a normal procedure for the drivers license to drive accompanied by an experienced driver. The persons who are allowed to accompany the driver, typically the parents, are listed in the preliminary license. When the driver becomes 18 the normal license is send to the driver without any additional tests.[3] The german term is "Begleitetes Fahren".
  • Within the first two years of holding the license there is a zero alcohol limit and a stricter penalisation of traffic rule violations. Some violations will extend the probation time to four years.[4] The German term is "Führerschein auf Probe"

United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom, one may apply for a provisional driver's licence from the age of 15 years 9 months, provided one is a legal resident of Great Britain. There is no requirement to sit a theory test before applying for a licence. Residents in Northern Ireland must apply through a separate system. Those holding a provisional driver's licence are permitted to learn to drive a car from age 17, and 16 for a moped or light quad bike.[5]

Holders of a provisional licence must be supervised by someone who is over 21 and has held their licence for over 3 years. When a provisional licence holder is driving a car, they must display a red 'L' plate on the front and back of the car (or a 'D' plate in Wales). Learner drivers of cars (but not motorcycles) may drive on motorways.[6]

To progress to holding a full licence, a driver must pass a multiple choice theory test on the Highway Code and a video Hazard Perception Test.[7] Once they have passed these tests, the driver must take and pass a practical test.[8] There is no minimum hours requirement for learning to drive, nor a minimum time to hold a licence. Once a learner has passed their driving test, there is currently no probationary period.[9]

An optional scheme called Pass Plus is available in the UK for new drivers which is aimed at improving general driving skills. This requires driving in a range of conditions and on a variety of roads. It is not a legal requirement, but it can reduce insurance premiums for new drivers.[10]


In Sweden, one may apply for a provisional driver's license for personal automobiles from the age of 16 years, providing one has obtained and provided a report on one's medical status, filled out by oneself, and completed and provided an optical exam to the governing body of Transportstyrelsen. While one doesn't need to sit through a theoretical test to qualify, one must sit through a lecture at a licensed driver's school. If and when both the Student and supervisor are licensed, the student may drive on public roads with both the superviser and student having proof of them being licensed with them, and the car having a sign in the back saying "Övningskör" meaning roughly practice driving, a greeen one if you're driving privately most often with ones parent or guardian, or a red sign if the student is driving with an instructor from a licensed driver's school.

While driving the student must be accomplished by another fully licensed driver, who must be 24 years or older, must have had completed an introductions course that is good for personal automobiles within the last 5 years, their student must also have completed this course, and they must have had a fully fledged driver's license for at least 5 years within the last 10 years. [11]

North America[edit]


In Canada, each province is responsible for the transportation laws. Most provinces not listed have a system that resembles one of the following graduated licensing programs.


In Alberta, the GDL program is first employed when an individual acquires at Class 7 Learner's License and lasts a minimum of 3 years if the individual obtains their class 7 when 15 instead of 14 and earns a class 5 non-GDL license at the age of 18. The point of the GDL program is to impose certain restrictions on new drivers and to have them earn enough road experience before becoming fully licensed.

British Columbia[edit]

The Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) was introduced in British Columbia in 1998 and is based on driving experience. A driver who is at least 16 years old and has never driven before must first take a knowledge test and vision screening test to attain their Class 7L (Learners) permit. Upon achieving this, they must be supervised by a full licensed driver of at least 25 years of age when driving. After a minimum of one year, they can take a practical driver's exam (road test). Upon succeeding the driver's exam, they receive their Class 7 N (Novice) licence, which allows them to drive alone, but with several restrictions. After a minimum of two years of safe driving, they may take another practical driver’s exam (Class 5 road test), and upon passing, they become a full licensed Class 5 driver.

Novice drivers may even be able to take their Class 5 road test after only 18 months, if they’ve taken an ICBC approved graduated licensing program during the L stage and have met all other requirements (no at-fault accidents, tickets or driving prohibitions). By successfully completing this ICBC approved driving course, drivers are also eligible to receive two High School credits.

Drivers who have had experience driving outside the province must take the knowledge test and get their learner's permit, but they are allowed to upgrade their status to Novice after a minimum of one day. However, they must similarly wait a period of two years before attempting to gain their full licence. This can apply even if the applicant currently holds an unrestricted licence from another jurisdiction.


In Ontario, the graduated licensing system is a time-based process. Once an individual turns 16, he/she is eligible to acquire a class G1 licence, which is the beginning stage. This is done by passing both a knowledge test as well as a vision test. The G1 licence is required by law to be held for 12 months unless he/she takes an approved Driver's Education course, by which the waiting time is dropped to 8 months. A holder of a G1 licence may drive only with a G level driver who has 4 years' experience, including time as a G2 driver and with a BAC of under .05 (the passenger driver). At the end of that period, he/she can take a G1 exit test which tests basic driving skills. Passing this grants him/her a G2 licence which enables him/her to drive alone with a limited number of passengers in the vehicle unless certain requirements are met. G2 licences are kept for 12 months and then he/she can take the G2 exit test, which tests highway driving as well as city driving skills. Passing this grants the Class G licence which is a full license. This can apply even if the applicant currently holds an unrestricted licence from another jurisdiction.

There are a few other graduated licensing systems in Ontario, including motorcycles (M1, M2, M) and since 2005, mopeds (for a non-class M license holder) (LM1, LM2).

United States[edit]

In the United States, transportation laws are the responsibility of the state governments. The federal government does, however, try to encourage graduated driver licensing through its National Priority Safety Programs fund. The National Transportation Safety Board reported in 2017 that zero dollars were expended on graduated driver licensing through this fund in 2016 (compared to more than $230 million for impaired driving campaigns).[12]

In 2011, the Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection (STANDUP) Act (S. 528, H.R. 1515) was introduced in the US Senate on March 9 by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and in the US House of Representatives on April 14 by Representatives Tim Bishop (D-NY) and Randy Hultgren (R-IL). This legislation would establish minimum federal requirements for state graduated licensing laws.[13]

New Jersey[edit]

New Jersey residents who have never had a driver license must follow New Jersey’s Graduated Driver License (GDL) program to get their first unrestricted basic driver license. The GDL is designed to give new drivers increased, step-by-step instruction and driving experience on the road to obtaining a basic driver license. The GDL has been proven to save lives among new drivers and their passengers. [14]


The State of Alabama uses an age-based graduated licensing system. A new driver over the age of 18 does not need to go through the graduated licensing process; they receive their full license after fulfilling requirements (tests and fees). A 15-year-old licensee must be accompanied by a licensed driver of 21 years of age or older. A 16-year-old licensee may be able to drive unsupervised with permission. However, between 12 am and 6 am, 16-year-olds need supervision unless performing necessary activities. According to the National Safety Council, other states follow similar types of restrictions.[15]



Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) first commenced in Australia in the mid-1960s with New South Wales introducing provisional licences on 4 January 1966. Learner licences had been in use since 1952. The provisional phase was for 12 months and had 40 mph speed restriction. Today in all Australian states, newly licensed drivers are required by law to display P-plates for varying lengths of time. The P is usually a red or green letter on a white background or a white letter on a red or green background (Victoria & Western Australia only). In New South Wales and Victoria there are two classes of provisional licence, red P-plates are for the first year after passing the Learner test and then after passing a computerised test, they are green for two to three years. Western Australia requires six months of red P-plates, where provisional drivers are under a 12 am – 5 am curfew, and one and a half years of green P-plates.

On 1 July 2000, New South Wales introduced a three-stage Graduated Licensing Scheme (GLS).[citation needed]

  • Stage one is a learner licence with the requirement to complete 50 hours of supervised driving (increased to 120 hours 1 July 2007).
  • Stage two is a one-year P1 probationary licence (with red P plates).
  • Stage three is a three-year P2 probationary licence (with green P plates).

On 1 July 2010, Victoria introduced the Graduated Licensing Systems (GLS).[citation needed]

  • Stage one is a one-year P1 probationary licence (with red P plates).
  • Stage two is a three-year P2 probationary licence (with green P plates).
  • P1 drivers are prohibited from using a mobile phone of any kind, are banned from towing, except for work or when supervised and can carry no more than one passenger aged between 16 years of age and less than 22 years, unless the passengers are immediate family members.

A good driving record will be necessary to progress to the next licence stage.

As of July 2007, newly issued Queensland drivers licences have new restrictions for those under 25. Learners must first log 100 hours of driving experience (of which 10 must be undertaken at night) before taking their practical driving examination. Learners can boost this experience by taking professional lessons which count for 3 times the hours, for up to 10 hours (or 30 logbook hours.) After a period of one year, provisional drivers must then pass a hazard-perception test to move from red to green P-Plates where previously only a 3-year duration was required. New restrictions also prevent any under-25, Queensland provisional licence-holder from carrying more than one passenger under the age of 21, who is not an immediate family member, between the hours of 11 pm and 5 am.[citation needed]

New Zealand[edit]

New Zealand has had a graduated driver licence system since 1987. The process of obtaining a full light vehicle driver licence in New Zealand is:[16]

  1. Theory test at a minimum age of 16.
  2. Learner licence: 6 months
  3. Practical test at a minimum age of 16 years 6 months
  4. Restricted licence: 12 months (with advanced driving course) or 18 months (without advanced driving course)
  5. Practical test at a minimum age of 17 years 6 months or 18 years, depending on whether the driver passes an advanced driving course.


  1. ^ "Teen and Novice Drivers". GHSA. July 7, 2017.
  2. ^ Bates, Lyndel; Watson, Barry; King, Mark (2010). "Required hours of practice for learner drivers: A comparison between two Australian jurisdictions". Journal of Safety Research. 41 (2): 93–97. doi:10.1016/j.jsr.2010.02.006.
  3. ^ Autorenname (2018-10-31). "Website by the ministy for traffic". BF17. Retrieved 2019-05-25.
  4. ^ "Führerschein auf Probe | ADAC Rechtsberatung". (in German). Retrieved 2019-05-25.
  5. ^ "Apply for your first provisional driving licence". UK Government. Retrieved 2014-09-05.
  6. ^ "Learner drivers on motorways from 4 June 2018". UK Government. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  7. ^ "Theory test for cars and motorcycles". UK Government. Retrieved 2014-09-05.
  8. ^ "The car practical driving test". UK Government. Retrieved 2014-09-05.
  9. ^ "Driving before you've got your full licence". UK Government. Retrieved 2014-09-05.
  10. ^ "Pass Plus". UK Government. Retrieved 2014-09-05.
  11. ^ "Jag ska vara handledare (in Swedish)". Swedish gov't entity. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
  12. ^ National Transportation Safety Board. 2017. Reducing Speeding-Related Crashes Involving Passenger Vehicles. Safety Study NTSB/SS-17/01. Washington, DC. (Table 9, p. 51)
  13. ^ "The STANDUP Act ~ S. 528/H.R. 1515". SafeRoads4Teens. 2009. Archived from the original on 18 May 2013. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  14. ^
  15. ^ National Safety Council. (2017) The State of Safety - A State-by-State Report. Itasca, IL. p. 19. accessed at:
  16. ^ "Car licence requirements". 2017-08-07. Retrieved 1 September 2017.