Wisconsin Department of Transportation

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GDL/teen risk

Year in and year out, teen drivers are over-represented in traffic crashes. Only 6% of all Wisconsin-licensed drivers are ages 16-19, but drivers in this age group account for 16% of all drivers involved in crashes.

Wisconsin's Graduated Driver License (GDL) law went into effect in 2000 to help give new, young drivers a healthier, safer start to their driving career. The GDL law was crafted to:

  • Give beginning teen drivers more practice time behind the wheel before getting a probationary license
  • Restrict teen drivers from being on the road during late night hours when the risk of injury is high
  • Limit the number of passengers who are at risk while riding with teen drivers
  • Allow teen drivers a longer and safer driving experience before earning an unrestricted license

Based on the first three full years of the GDL restrictions (2001-03), the number of 16-year old drivers involved in crashes has decreased. Compared to the three years prior to GDL (1997-99), during 2001-03, 16-year old drivers were:

  • 15% less likely to be in a traffic crash of any type (6,709 per year)
    • 18% less likely to be in a fatal crash (23 per year)
    • 20% less likely to be in a non-fatal injury crash (2,354 per year)
    • 12% less likely to be in a property damage-only crash (4,332 per year)

With exceptions for school and work, Wisconsin's GDL law restricts teens with probationary licenses from driving between Midnight and 5:00 AM. Since GDL was enacted, during these overnight hours, 16-year old drivers were:

  • 36% less likely to be in a crash of any type (591 per year)
    • 37% less likely to be in a non-fatal injury crash (219 per year)
    • 35% less likely to be in a property damage-only crash (369 per year)

There was no change in the number of 16-year olds involved in fatal crashes between midnight and 5 a.m. (three per year before GDL, and three per year since).

More analysis is being conducted to determine other benefits that the new GDL law may have had for teen drivers.

Video of a presentation by Roger White, father of Sean White, a teen from Oregon Wisconsin who died in a car crash with two of his friends.

Roger White gives his presentation to schools and organizations. This five minute video is a edited version of his presentation which is about 25 minutes. For more information please contact Mr. White at rcwhiteguy@yahoo.com.

Questions about the content of this page:
Bureau of Driver Services, records.dmv@dot.wi.gov
Last modified: August 23, 2011
BDS/QIS/DRE

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