How Parents Can Enforce Graduated Driver Licensing Laws at Home

Parents typically feel ambivalent when their teens receive their driver’s licenses. They appreciate the freedom from being their teen’s sole source of transportation, but they worry that their teens won’t be able to handle the corresponding freedom of being behind the wheel on their own. In most states, teens’ freedom is limited by Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws. But many parents are unaware of these laws or, if they are aware of them, fail to implement them as house rules.

This is a mistake. Enforcing GDL laws as house rules is an excellent tool for parents, who have the support of an existing law, the need for which and the efficacy of which is fully supported by research. Enforcement of the law by the police, while somewhat irregular in some states, is a very real possibility and could result in legal consequences for the teen. This gives parents additional support from an outside source when enforcing the law in their own households.

The first step in implementing your state’s GDL law is to become familiar with it. The law is typically detailed in the first or second chapter of the driver handbook. Many states post their driver handbooks online. You can also find information on GDL laws at your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles or Department of Public Safety website. Once you locate the information, save or bookmark it for future reference. GDL laws change as teens mature and gain experience (the “graduated” in Graduated Driver Licensing).

The next step is to help your teen understand the importance of following GDL laws. Begin a dialogue with your teen before she or he even has a learner’s permit. Ask your teen to tell you why she or he thinks GDL laws exist. This helps your teen think and allows them to educate themselves about the process. Make sure your teen understands that GDL laws exist not only to protect teens from themselves, but to protect them from other teens. Your teen needs to follow GDL laws whether she or he is the driver or a passenger. Remind your teen that GDL laws become less stringent as the teen demonstrates responsible driving behavior – it’s not just about having another birthday.

Next, incorporate your state’s GDL laws into your house rules. For example, newly licensed drivers are typically restricted from driving during certain hours. You can ensure that your teen obeys the law by integrating these time limits into your teen’s curfew.

Finally, establish penalties for violating the GDL law or receiving a traffic ticket, whether the violation is for disobeying the GDL law or another offense. Be clear about the penalties from the beginning and relate them to driving by withdrawing driving privileges or enforcing new limits on driving. Help your teen understand all the ramifications of receiving a ticket, such as points on the license, fines, insurance increases, and failure to achieve the next stage in the GDL process.

Enforcing the GDL law in your household is a valuable tool that will help ensure your teen’s safety behind the wheel.