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J Safety Res. 2003 Jan;34(1):99-105.

Graduated driver licensing: the New Zealand experience.

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  • 1Injury Prevention Research Unit, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, P.O. Box 913, Dunedin, New Zealand.


In New Zealand, on 1 August 1987, a three-stage graduated driver licensing (GDL) system that applied to all new drivers aged 15-24 years was introduced. The essential elements of GDL were a 6-month learner license (supervised driving) and an 18-month restricted license stage (with restrictions on night driving and carrying passengers). A blood alcohol limit of 0.03 mg% applied at both stages. EVALUATION STUDIES: Early studies indicated that young people were reasonably accepting of the restrictions, with the passenger restriction being the least acceptable. Problems of compliance with the restricted license driving restrictions were reported. Evaluations of the impact of the graduated driver licensing (GDL) on serious traffic-related injury showed that up until 1991-1992, an 8% reduction could be attributed to GDL. At this time, it was considered that reduced exposure was the main reason for this reduction. However, the number of fatalities and hospital admissions among young people continued to decline, as did the population rate and the rate per number of licensed drivers among the young driver age group. A further evaluation study showed that drivers with a restricted license had a smaller proportion of crashes at night, and with passengers, compared with drivers licensed before GDL. IMPACT OF GDL: These results suggested that GDL restrictions had contributed to the reduction in crashes among young people and that it was not simply a case of reduced exposure to risk. An update of the most recent crash statistics indicated that, compared with older age groups, the fatal and serious injury crash rate among young people has remained substantially below the pre-GDL level. This suggests that the impact of GDL has not diminished over time.

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