Graduated Driver License Helps New Teen Drivers

Drivers license teen drivers

Are you familiar with Missouri’s Graduated Driver License (GDL) law? It is a three-step licensing process designed to help inexperienced teen drivers acquire the skills needed to be responsible drivers and make the road safer for all drivers.

Young drivers are some of the highest-risk drivers on the road; however, many just lack the experience and on-the-spot decision-making skills needed to avoid the unexpected. The Missouri GDL helps prepare teen drivers to handle driving risk factors such as driving at night or with more than one passenger, distracted or unbelted.

Graduated Driver License Law in Missouri

Missouri’s Graduated Driver License law requires that all first-time teen drivers (between 15 and 18 years old) complete a period of driving with a licensed driver (the instruction permit) and restricted driving (the intermediate license) before getting a full driver’s license.

Missouri's graduated driver license, three-step licensing process, graduated driver license, GDLThe Missouri GDL law breaks the process down into three steps. This helps reduce the factors that contribute to crashes among teen drivers. (This is a broad overview; links to more specifics are provided at the end of the blog.)

The first step is an instructional permit. Eligible at age 15, teens must pass a vision, road sign and written test to get their permit

  • Under age 16, teens may drive only when accompanied in the front seat by a qualified person.
  • Age 16 or older, teens may drive when accompanied in the front seat by a person who is at least 21 years old and has a valid driver’s license.

The intermediate license is the second step of the graduated license law. To graduate to an intermediate license eligible teens (ages 16-18):

  • Must have an instruction permit for a minimum of 182 days (beginning the day after issuance).
  • May not have any alcohol-related convictions in the last 12 months and no traffic convictions in the last 6 months.
  • Must have received 40 hours of driving instruction with a qualified person, grandparent or qualified driving instructor. The driving instruction must include a minimum of 10 hours of behind-the-wheel nighttime driving.

There also are restrictions on the number of passengers and nighttime driving from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Missouri requires seat belts for all occupants and does not allow texting while driving, even at stoplights.

A full driver’s license (under 21, full driver’s license) can be obtained at the age of 18 with a valid intermediate license. Teens:

  • Must have no alcohol-related offenses or traffic convictions in the last 12 months.
  • Driving privilege may not be suspended, revoked, or denied in any state.
  • Must pass the road sign recognition tests and vision examination.

Graduated Driver License Works!

In Missouri, the leading causes of teen deaths are inexperience, nighttime driving, and driving with passengers; the highest risk is at age 16 (during the first year of independent driving).

inexperienced teen driver responsible driver young driversThe GDL works because it limits the number of passengers teens may have in their cars, prohibits late night driving and cell phone use, and requires everyone to buckle up. The two GDL restrictions that have the most potential to save lives are:

  • Limits on nighttime driving
  • Limits on passengers

The goal of the Missouri GDL is to keep teen drivers as safe as possible during their most dangerous driving years. Parents and teens should think of the GDL law as the minimum standard, not the maximum, for teen driving safety.

Specifics on each level of the GDL can be found here.



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