New Graduated Driver Licensing Law to Save Teens

June 30, 2009 - Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Little Rock

LITTLE ROCK, AR. (July 30, 2009 ) – A law that goes into effect on Friday, July 31, has the potential to save dozens of lives every year by giving teen drivers more time to learn behind the wheel and fewer distractions when they’re on the road.

The graduated driver licensing (GDL) law, passed during the 2009 Arkansas legislative session, applies new limits to teen drivers in the state, all aimed at keeping them safer. Arkansas teens are twice as likely to die in car crashes as their peers in other states. In fact, 632 Arkansans between the ages of 14 and 19 were killed in motor vehicle crashes between 1999 and 2005, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new GDL law aims to change these statistics.

Research conducted by the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy indicates that the most restrictive GDL laws are associated with about a 40 percent reduction in injuries and fatalities caused by car crashes involving 16-year-old drivers.

“There is no question that the new Arkansas GDL law will help keep teens on our roads safer, since similar laws have been effective in other states,” said Mary Aitken, MD, MPH, director of the Injury Prevention Center at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and a professor of Pediatrics in the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Medicine. “A little change and a few limits can go miles towards saving the life of a teen you love.”

Currently, 14- and15- year-old drivers are issued learners licenses which require adult supervision at all times. Once the teen is ready to begin driving without supervision at ages 16 and 17, they will be issued an intermediate license. The new GDL law includes the following restrictions until the teen reaches age 18:

Teen drivers will be limited in the number of passengers they can carry before they turn 18, since crash risks increase with the number of passengers in the car. Under the GDL law, drivers with an intermediate license will only be permitted one unrelated minor passenger unless there is an adult at least 21 years of age in the front passenger seat of the vehicle. This restriction applies to passengers who are not siblings, step-siblings or other minors living in the same household as the driver.

In addition, the new GDL also restricts the nighttime hours during which teens can drive. Those with intermediate licenses will not be able to drive between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. unless they are accompanied by an over-21 passenger, driving to or from school and church activities, or traveling to or from a job.

Until age 18, all teens must refrain from using cell phones and other interactive wireless communication devices while they are driving. Talking on the phone has been shown to be a tremendous distraction that takes teens’ eyes off the road and draws their minds away from the serious task at hand.

When the new law begins on Friday, July 31, parents across Arkansas need to talk to their teens about the restrictions. Understanding the need for these limits can help teens make safe decisions, giving them the keys to survival.

The Injury Prevention Center at Arkansas Children's Hospital is the only multi-faceted injury prevention program in Arkansas whose mission is to reduce child injury, death and disability in Arkansas through service, education, innovative research and advocacy. Key areas of focus include teen driving, all-terrain vehicle safety, car passenger seat safety, water safety, home safety, pedestrian safety and bike safety. The center's team of experts works with partners throughout the state to educate families on effective prevention strategies, reinforcing the fact that It Only Takes a Moment - it only takes only a moment to lose your life due to an injury, but it also only takes a moment to practice safety and prevention. For more information on the Injury Prevention Center at Arkansas Children's Hospital, call (501) 364-3400 or visit

Arkansas Children’s Hospital is the only pediatric medical center in Arkansas and one of the largest in the United States serving children from birth to age 21. The campus spans 28 city blocks and houses 316 beds, a staff of approximately 500 physicians, 80 residents in pediatrics and pediatric specialties and more than 4,000 employees. The private, nonprofit healthcare facility boasts an internationally renowned reputation for medical breakthroughs and intensive treatments, unique surgical procedures and forward-thinking medical research - all dedicated to fulfilling our mission of enhancing, sustaining and restoring children's health and development. ACH recently ranked No. 76 on FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For®. For more information, visit

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a new 540,000-square-foot hospital, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has 2,652 students and 733 medical residents. Its centers of excellence include the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit or