Novice drivers are far more likely than seasoned drivers to be involved in a fatal car crash. GDL, or graduated driver licensing, has been proven to reduce the number of crashes due to reckless driving in Texas. How does it work, and how does it lessen the risk for drivers up to age 21 in the Lone Star State? We take a closer look at this highly effective strategy.
Why Was GDL Implemented?
GDL was implemented because of the many risks that teen drivers face. Inexperience prevents them from recognizing dangerous driving situations. They’re also more likely to underestimate dangers while on the road. In order to avoid a serious crash, a driver must be able to make correct critical decisions. However, this is a skill that most teen drivers do not possess.
Teens are more likely to speed and leave insufficient space between vehicles and are also less likely to wear a seat belt. Reckless driving and alcohol use behind the wheel are other problems among a high number of teen drivers. Inexperience during night driving has also resulted in many crashes.
GDL programs address these risks by reaching teens at an early age and providing them with education, on-the-road experience, and driving restrictions until they’ve reached a particular age or phase of licensing. This results in educated drivers who have adopted safe driving habits before they’re awarded a driver’s license.
How Is GDL Different from Other Vehicle Licensing?
GDL, which was adopted in 2002, offers licensing to teen drivers in stages. The overall learning period is extended, and teens have a longer amount of time for driving practice. Participants in the program must also adhere to driving restrictions that can result in early intervention by law enforcement and further education.
What Are the Stages of GDL?
Graduated driver licensing requires participants to successfully complete three phases before being awarded their full license. They first take driver’s education, and then receive an instruction permit and learner’s license, and then finally obtain their provisional license before completing the final application for a full drivers’ license.
Instruction Permit and Learners License
The instruction permit can be obtained by anyone 15 years of age or older. In order to obtain the permit, drivers must first pass a Texas DPS-approved drivers’ education course and pass the written exam. Once awarded the official learners’ license, drivers must meet the following criteria:
- Wait six months before practicing driving with an experienced driver aged 21 or over.
- After six months, have an adult licensed driver of at least 21 years of age in the vehicle’s passenger seat.
- Acquire 30 hours of supervised driving, with ten of those hours at night.
- Not driving while using a wireless communications device.
- Not driving between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Drivers must also not use any wireless communication devices, and they must wear a seat belt, as per state law.
In order to obtain a provisional Texas teen drivers’ license, a driver must be 16 years or older and must have completed the previous learner phase. Drivers must also ensure they adhere to the following requirements:
- Hold this license until they reach 18 years of age.
- Not have more than one passenger who is under 21 unless they are a family member.
- Not have any non-familial passenger in the vehicle who is under 21 unless there is a licensed driver over 21 in the front passenger seat.
- No driving between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. without a licensed driver of 21 years or older in the front passenger seat.
- Not to use any wireless communication device while behind the wheel.
This license must be held for six months, after which provisional license holders can have the above restrictions removed by the DMV. As well, drivers must have completed both classroom and behind-the-wheel driver education, as well as the Impact Texas Teen Drivers Course (ITTD).
Impact Texas Driver Courses
The goal of ITD courses is to educate novice drivers about the dangers of distracted driving. There are two categories of ITD course, each based on age.
The Impact Texas Teen Drivers, or ITTD course, is offered to individuals who have completed their driver education course and are between the ages of 15 and 17. It is a free 2-hour video.
The Impact Texas Young Drivers, or ITYD, is a 1-hour video for individuals who are between 18 and 24 years of age. It must be watched prior to taking the examination for driver skills.
A certificate is awarded to participants who complete either of these courses. It is sent via email and must be printed and presented to the DMV on the day of the driving skills test or within 90 days of completion in order to be valid. If this doesn’t occur, the individual will need to take the course a second time.
How Effective Has the Graduated Driver Licensing Program Been?
A July 2009 report by the Texas Transportation Institute revealed a 32.9 percent drop in fatal crashes among teens between the ages of 16 and 19.1 All states have some form of GDL in place, although specific program components vary from state to state.
According to the CDC, research has revealed that states having more comprehensive GDL programs were associated with overall crash reductions between 16 and 22 percent.2 Unfortunately, there are still many drivers in Texas today who continue to be negligent or reckless behind the wheel.
What Is Reckless Driving?
Texas defines a reckless driver as anyone who drives without regard for the safety of people or property. Common reckless driving activities include refusing to stop for signs or lights, street racing, or illegally passing in no-passing zones.
A driver also exhibits reckless behavior when they fail to yield to other vehicles or pedestrians with the right-of-way or when they drive distracted or under the influence of alcohol or drugs; in these cases, they will also receive a reckless driving ticket in Texas. All of these behaviors can result in a driver making errors in performance, decision, or recognition, but errors can also be made when a driver is drowsy or if they fall asleep while driving.
Vehicles involved in reckless driving crashes may require significant repairs, or a victim may have no choice but to purchase a new vehicle.
Reckless Driving Hurts Everyone
Not only is it illegal to drive recklessly, but doing so can result in severe injuries, as well as fatalities. For the driver, the misdemeanor can mean fines and jail time. Victims of these accidents often must cease working in order to recover, adding medical bills to an already growing list of financial responsibilities.
In addition to the above, injuries sustained by victims of reckless driving accidents may result in incurable pain and lifelong disability, which can completely prevent a return to work and result in a lifelong loss of income.
Were You the Victim of a Reckless Driver in Texas?
There’s no good reason to drive recklessly, and Texas law reflects that. The reality is that if you were injured in an accident caused by someone else’s reckless driving, you can do something about it. An attorney experienced in reckless driving incidents can represent your interests and get you the compensation you deserve.
Johnson Garcia LLP has the experience needed to hold reckless drivers responsible in court. We’ve helped clients recover millions of dollars for their ongoing care, lost wages, and medical care needs due to reckless drivers, and we can help you too. We offer a free consultation to all new clients so that they can get the information they need to make an informed decision about their next steps. Claim yours today by calling us at (832) 844-6700.