CALIFORNIA’S GRADUATED DRIVER LICENSING PROGRAM
12-month night driving restriction). Other authors have suggested additional
restrictions such as restricting novice teens from driving on freeways and during
weekends (McKnight, 1996; Mayhew & Simpson, 1984, 1996). These types of restrictions
are not as common, although they are supported by research findings (e.g., Cooper,
Pinili, & Chen, 1995). Restrictions on driving at night and transporting young
passengers are considered to be very important features of any teenage licensing
program, given the high crash risk for teenagers under these situations (Lin & Fearn,
2003; Williams & Mayhew, 2003). Night driving curfews have been shown to reduce
driving during the restricted hours and discourage early licensure (Williams, Lund, &
Preusser, 1985). Driving restrictions and curfews have been found to result in less risky
driving especially when licensure is contingent upon not receiving traffic violations
during the restricted stage (McKnight, 1986).
To date, 37 states have adopted comprehensive modified licensing programs for teens,
and 47 states and the District of Columbia have implemented one or more of the major
components mentioned above (Shope & Molnar, 2003). Programs in some jurisdictions
apply to new drivers of any age (e.g., Nova Scotia and Ontario), while others apply only
to novice drivers under certain ages (e.g., under age 25 in New Zealand and under age
18 in most U.S. states, including California). States that have adopted even some of the
key components, such as a nighttime restriction, have realized lower teenage crash rates
(Ferguson, Leaf, Williams, & Preusser, 1996; McKnight, Hyle, & Albrecht, 1983;
Preusser, Ferguson, & Williams, 1999). In fact, evaluations of these programs or their
components have generally found that they are associated with reductions in crashes,
although there is a lot of variation in the observed effect sizes (ranging from 4% to 60%).
The high variability is probably due to the fact that the programs differ in their
components, some being more comprehensive and strict than others, and to differences
in methodology used in the evaluations (e.g., different crash metrics and statistical
analyses). A fairly thorough summary of the results of a number of evaluations of
licensing programs for teenagers in various jurisdictions can be found in McKnight and
Peck (2002) and Masten (in press).
California’s Licensing Program for Teenagers
To obtain a learner’s permit in California, teens younger than age 18 must have
completed or be simultaneously enrolled in both driver education and driver training
courses or have completed driver education and be enrolled in a driver training course.
They also must pass vision and written knowledge tests. The minimum age to apply for
an instruction permit is 15 years. To obtain their driver license they must be at least 16
years of age and pass a drive test.
California’s first teen licensing program, implemented in October 1983, included the
following components for license applicants under age 18:
• A mandatory 1-month instruction permit period allowing driving only when
supervised by a licensed parent/guardian, spouse, or adult 25 years of age or older,
or a certified driving instructor.
• A parent/teen driver-practice guide that contains structured driving exercises that
the teen must master before taking a drive test.