What You Should Know About Graduated Driver Licensing Programs
Graduated driver licensing is a process that lets teen drivers learn the skills they need to become safe motorists in a way that grants them more driving privileges as they become more experienced behind the wheel. Instead of granting teens full driving privileges as soon as they pass their road test, these programs are designed to give teens the chance to gain experience on the road, but in a way that limits their exposure to more difficult, higher-risk driving situations.
Graduated driver licensing programs have proven to be very effective in keeping teen drivers safe. Florida was the first state to use a graduated licensing program and in its first year, the number of fatal accidents among 15-17-year-old drivers was reduced by 9%. Michigan has had a graduated licensing program since 1997. Between 1996 and 1999, the number of car accidents involving 16-year-old drivers dropped by 25%. Prior to becoming widely accepted in the United States, graduated licensing programs were very successfully used in New Zealand and Canada.
What Kinds of Restrictions Do Graduated Licensing Programs Use?
All fifty states and Washington D.C. have implemented graduated driver licensing programs, but not all states have the exact same licensing processes. Graduated licensing programs generally involve a teen driver taking a class, earning a beginner license that allows them to drive with adult supervision for a specified amount of time before taking more classes and a test to earn an intermediate license that allows them to drive unsupervised, but with restrictions such as when they can drive and how many passengers they’re allowed to have.
What is Michigan’s Graduated Driver Licensing Program?
In Michigan, teens who are at least 14 years and 8 months old are able to sign up for Segment 1 driver education classes. Segment 1 classes are at least 3 weeks long and involve at least 24 hours of classroom education, at least 6 hours of instruction behind the wheel, at least 4 hours of behind-the-wheel observation time, and a written exam. Once the class has been successfully completed, they will eligible for a Level 1 driver license. Level 1 licenses allow them to practice driving with a parent or other licensed driver who is at least 21-years-old. They’ll be required to get at least 50 hours of practice driving (10 of which need to be at night) before they can move onto the next level.
Once a teen has held a Level 1 license for at least three consecutive months and has completed at least 30 of the required 50 hours (including 2 of the 10 night driving hours), they are able to take Segment 2 driver education classes. Segment 2 driver education classes involve a minimum of six hours of classroom education and a written exam. If a teen successfully completes the exam for Segment 2, they will be required to finish the required 50 hours of supervised practice time. Even if they have already completed the required practice time, they are required to hold a Level 1 license for at least six consecutive months and be at least 16-years-old before they can take the test for a Level 2 license.
A Level 2 drivers license gives teens the freedom to drive unsupervised, but with certain restrictions. They aren’t allowed to drive between 10:00 PM and 5:00 AM or drive with more than one passenger under the age of 21. Exceptions are made to these rules if the teen is accompanied by a parent or licensed driver over 21 or is driving to school, a school-sanctioned event, work, a religious activity, or is escorting a person to safety or to get emergency medical attention. They can also have more than one passenger in the car if the passengers are immediate family members or they are driving to or from one of the previously mentioned approved activities.
To make the final step to an unrestricted Level 3 license, a driver must be at least 17-years-old and have held a Level 2 license for at least 6 months. They also must not have been involved in any accidents or been received any violations in the 12 months prior to applying for a Level 3 license.
Michigan’s graduated licensing program stops when a driver turns 18. If a person has a Level 1 or Level 2 license and turns 18 before completing the requirements for that level, they are able to take the road test for a full, unrestricted driver’s license.