There seem to be many jurisdictions that have some form of graduated licensing system in place. For the most part, these seem to work. In many parts of Canada, this comes with restrictions for the driver, regardless of their age. This too seems to work as the new driver gains driving experience. Let’s take a look at how this system works.

The “co-driver”

In many parts of Canada, such as in Ontario, the new or novice driver needs to have a “co-driver” beside them as they gain driving practice. This “co-driver” must have a minimum of 4 years driving experience and be fully licenced. They must also keep their blood-alcohol level low. In other words, the novice driver can’t become the designated driver after a night out on the town. If you add some logic, this co-driver should also be a fairly good driver as they become another pair of “eyes” for the novice driver.

Practicing your driving skills

The novice driver, regardless of age, must practice their skills for one full year before attempting their road test. This wait time may be reduced to an 8 month wait if they take an approved driver training program, such as Young Drivers of Canada (where I work). We always urge new drivers to take the best course they can find; not just the cheapest. As some people are finding out, not all driving schools are the same.

After passing the test

Once the novice driver has passed their first road test, they must drive for at least 12 months before attempting a second, more difficult road test. During this time, the novice driver has a few restrictions. They can drive alone, at any time of the day and on any roadway, but until they reach 20 years of age, they do have passenger restrictions. For the first 6 months during the hours of midnight to 5 a.m., they can only have 1 passenger 19 and under. After 6 months or until they turn 20, they can only have 3 passengers 19 and under. This won’t apply if the passengers are family members, or if they have a co-driver once again.

It’s not about restricting the driving time of the novice teen driver, it’s about realizing that distracted driving is real and that teen passengers are a big part of this. Remember, the teen driver can still drive at any time of the day; they just have to limit the number of friends at certain times of the day.


young group car drinking


The main reason for these passenger restrictions is that a teen tends to make choices through their emotions whereas adults tend to use logic more often than not. Teens also tend to let their friends influence their decisions. If the number of passengers can be reduced until the teen drivers gain more experience, they can build on the habit of positive choices while driving. Speaking with many teens over my 26 years of experience as a road safety educator, they tend to agree that their friends do affect their choices. Remove the temptation and improve the outcome.

For more than 20 years, this system has been proven to work. Part of the success also comes with tougher rules for driving schools, the consistency of the road tests and the rules the family puts on the younger drivers. For an example, my 17 year old son got his driver’s licence and he has to let me know if he’s driving around any of his friends. He also has to let me know where he’s going. He knows if he tries to sneak around he loses the privilege of driving the family vehicle. And yes, I said privilege. Parents need to take an active role in their kids driving.

In order to allow novice drivers to become good drivers it will take time and team work from many. However, it starts from home and continues from home as they gain valuable experience. Respect must be taught, given and expected to be received back from them. This goes with government, parents, road safety educators and the novice driver themselves..