NHTSA is seeking public comment by Oct. 25 on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) it issued earlier this month on the minimum qualification criteria for the State Graduated Drive Licensing Incentive Grant Program authorized under MAP-21.
In July, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) was enacted, which includes a mandate that states implement multi-stage licensing systems requiring novice drivers younger than 21 years of age to comply with certain requirements before receiving an unrestricted license. Generally, GDL laws passed by all 50 states call for a Learner’s Permit Stage that must be at least six months in duration and remain in effect until the driver reaches 16 years of age and enters the intermediate stage or reaches 18 years of age.
MAP-21 increases the minimum requirements. To receive a grant, states must now require novice drivers under the age of 21 to comply with the learner's permit stage and an intermediate stage that begins immediately after the learner's permit expires. The intermediate stage restricts night driving and prohibits the teen driver from operating a vehicle with more than one "non-familial" passenger younger than 21 years old, unless a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old is also in the vehicle.
MAP-21 also allows states to prescribe additional requirements, such as 40 hours of behind-the-wheel training and a driver training course. The teen driver must be monitored during this training by a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old. Unrestricted drivers licenses will also be delayed for any teen who is convicted of driving-related offenses during the learner's permit or intermediate stages.
NHTSA said that few, if any, of the states and territories meet all of the minimum qualification criteria.
A 2006 study by John Hopkins University for NHTSA found that states with comprehensive GDL programs had a 20-percent reduction in fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers. Meanwhile, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently concluded that states with stronger GDL laws had 30 percent fewer fatal crashes involving 15- to 17-year-old drivers.
Comments to Docket NHTSA-2012-0137 can be submitted online.