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Do you know your teen's GDL?

By Stacy Teston County Extension Agent - FCS

Pictured: Parents as well as teens need to know the rules of Texas' Graduated Driver Licensing law.

Knowing your child's GDL may very well save your child's life. That's because GDL stands for Graduated Driver Licensing. The Texas GDL law can help parents set limits on their teen student drivers and prevent needless injuries and deaths during this high-risk time.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. Statistics show that teens are most likely to have a crash during the first six months after getting their license, primarily due to their inexperience.
A recent study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) reports that drivers ages 15 to 17 years old are not only at a disadvantage due to their lack of experience but also due to the incomplete development of the prefrontal cortex of the brain - the part of the brain that helps weigh the consequences of risky behavior. TTI also reports that teens are eight times more likely to be in a fatal crash when they are carrying two or more teen passengers.
The Texas GDL law limits the number of teen passengers that can legally ride with a novice driver and provides parents with the controls to help keep their teen drivers safe. Many parents, however, are not aware of the provisions of the law, which is divided into two phases. Making sure your teen follows the GDL law can help get a teen safely through the most critical time when driver inexperience can lead to crashes.
During Phase 1 of the GDL, the teen must:
• Be at least 15 years of age;
• Complete a driver education course;
• Have a learner's license and be accompanied by a licensed driver age 21 or older who occupies the front seat when driving;
• Have 30 hours of supervised driving, with 10 of those hours at night;
• Fulfill a 6-month waiting period after the learner's license is issued for practicing driving with experienced drivers age 21 or older;
• Not use any wireless communication devices, hands-free or not; and wear a seatbelt.
During Phase 2 of the GDL, the teen:
• Must be at least 16 years of age (not issued until six months after learner's license is issued, so age varies) and expires on the teen's 18th birthday;
• Will receive a Provisional License, which means the teen can drive solo;
• Cannot operate a motor vehicle with more than one passenger in the vehicle under age 21 who is not a family member;
• Is not permitted to drive between midnight and 5 am unless operation of the vehicle is necessary for the driver to work, to attend or participate in a school-related activity, or due to a medical emergency;
• May not use any wireless communication devices, hands-free or not; and
• Must wear a seatbelt.
Research shows that parents play an important role in increasing their teen's driving skills, as they have the greatest influence over their teen's behavior.
So, spell out the rules! Go to http://www.cdc.gov/ParentsAreTheKey/agreement to see sample agreements between parents and teens. Parents need to know their teen's GDL and enforce the rules to save lives and prevent injuries!