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Young drivers who lack experience behind the wheel may drive more irresponsibly and are at greater risk of being involved in accidents. Fortunately, there are graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs in place designed to train young drivers and help them attain good driving habits.

It’s smart to understand graduated driver’s license rules, GDL laws, and GDL restrictions, especially if you or a teenage loved one is preparing to drive soon for the first time.

Key Takeaways

  • State GDL laws put restrictions on licenses of inexperienced drivers and then allow them more freedom as they gain experience with age.
  • Young drivers are required to have a learner’s permit and hold it for an appropriate amount of time before applying for their licenses.
  • Drivers in an intermediate stage can get their state driver’s license, but they need to do more work before gaining the same rights as a more experienced driver.
  • After gaining experience, young drivers can enjoy full driving privileges. They can drive at any time, and they can have anyone in the car.

What is graduated driver licensing?

Graduated driver licensing rules enable new drivers to obtain experience on the road and adopt positive driving habits before they are allowed to drive with fewer restrictions.

“The laws vary from state to state. But generally speaking, a GDL program will apply certain rules to a new driver, such as prohibiting the driver from driving alone, driving with other unlicensed passengers, or driving at night,” explains Jobin Joseph, managing attorney for TrafficTickets.com in New York City.

“The idea is that as young new drivers gain more experience on the road, they graduate to the next level of licensing privileges, which will carry fewer restrictions than the previous level,” says Lyle Solomon, an attorney and financial expert with Oak View Law Group in Rocklin, California.

Find driving age by state

15 years, 6 mos.
Minimum Driving Age

Driver’s license laws by state

Adolescent drivers are involved in crashes three times more than drivers over the age of 20, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has also reported that motor vehicle crashes account for the deaths of more teenagers than any other cause.

“Hence, state governments have responded by restricting an adolescent’s ability to drive until they have more experience and are hopefully less likely to be involved in an accident,” says Joseph.

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs allow teen drivers to gain driving experience before they get full driving privileges. Most programs include three stages:

Learner stage

The first GDL level is the learner stage, which includes getting a learner’s permit, driving with supervision, and passing a driving test. Learner’s permits in most states mandate that the permit holder is of minimum age, only operate the vehicle in the presence of a fully licensed driver, and earn a particular number of hours while driving under these rules in order to graduate to the next level of licensing.

Here are the learner stage restrictions for each state:

State Minimum entry age Mandatory holding period Minimum amount of supervised driving Other regulations
Alabama15 years6 months50 hrs. The supervising driver must be a parent, guardian, grandparent or driving instructor. 
Alaska14 years6 month40 hrs., including 10 at night or in inclement weather
Arizona15 years, 6 mos.6 month30 hrs. including 10 at night ( with defensive driving course)A driver education instructor can authorize an enrolled student who is 15 to drive only while supervised by the authorizing instructor.
Arkansas14 years6 monthsNone14 year-olds can drive with an instruction permit after passing a written test. After passing a road test they are eligible for a learner’s license. Unsupervised driving is not permitted by holders of either the instruction permit or learner’s license. 
California15 years, 6 mos.6 months50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightStudents enrolled in driver education may drive while supervised by an instructor.
Colorado15 years12 months50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightThe minimum permit age varies. Fifteen year-olds who are enrolled in driver education may apply for an instruction permit. Their supervising driver must be a parent, stepparent, grandparent, guardian, or driving instructor.
Connecticut16 years6 months (4 months with driver ed)40 hrs. Either driver education or home training is required for license applicants younger than 18. Permit holders may not carry any passengers aside from the person providing instruction, parents or guardians.
District of Colombia16 years6 months40 hrs. in learner’s stage; 10 hrs. at night in intermediate stageLearner’s permit required for all applicants regardless of age. Drivers in the learner’s stage aren’t allowed to drive between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Delaware16 years6 month50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightDriver education is required for all license applicants younger than 18.
Florida15 years12 months50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightLearners permit holders may not drive after sunset for the first three months and thereafter may not drive after 10 p.m.
Georgia15 years12 months40 hrs. including 6 at nightLicense applicants younger than 18 must have completed driver education.
Hawaii15 years, 6 mos.6 months50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightLicense applicants younger than 18 must have completed driver education.
Idaho14 years, 6 mos.6 months50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightThe state has three learner’s permit levels — driver training for drivers 14 ½; supervised instruction with a nonprofessional supervisor; and an instruction permit for people who are 17 who completed driver education and supervised driving or drivers who are 17 and older without driver education or supervised driving.
Illinois15 years9 months50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightEnrollment in driver education is required for permit applicants.
Indiana15 with driver’s ed. 16 without driver’s ed.6 months50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightPermit applicants must be at least 15 years old and completed a driver education course. All 16-year-olds can apply for a permit.
Iowa14 years12 months20 hrs. including 2 hrs. at night Holders of a minor school license may not use electronic communication devices or electronic entertainment devices (permanently installed equipment exempted), carry more than one unrelated passenger, or drive to another school district without an extra-curricular sharing agreement.
Kansas14 years12 months50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightRestricted license holders younger than 16 may not drive unless supervised other than to and from school or work via the most direct route and may not carry minor passengers other than siblings.
Kentucky16 years6 months60 hrs. including 10 at night License holders younger than 18 must complete a driver education course or a state-sponsored traffic school.
Louisiana15 years6 months50 hrs. including 15 hours at night
Maine15 years6 months70 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightDriver education is required for a permit and a license if the applicant is younger than 18.
Maryland15 years, 9 mos9 months60 hrs. including 10 hrs. at night Driver education is required regardless of applicant age.
Massachusetts16 years6 months40 hrs. with 30 hrs. advanced driver training Driver education is required of license applicants younger than 18.
Michigan14 years, 9 mos.6 months50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightPermit applicants younger than 18 must have completed the first segment of driver education.
Minnesota15 years6 months50 hrs. including 15 hrs. at night, or 40 hrs. with 15 hrs at night if parent completes 90-minute coursePermit applicants under 18 must take driver education. 
Mississippi15 years12 monthsNone
Missouri15 years6 months40 hrs. including 10 hrs. at night
Montana14 years, 6 mos.6 months50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightEnrollment in driver education is required for permit applicants under 15.
Nebraska15 years6 months50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at night (none with driver’s ed)Drivers who are 14 years old and live at least 1.5 miles from a school and live outside of a metro area can get a learner’s permit or limited license. Limited license allows the teen to drive while supervised.
Nevada15 years, 6 mos.6 months50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at night or 100 hrs. with 10 hrs. at night if driver’s ed not offered within 30 miles
New Hampshire15 years, 6 mos.None40 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightNew Hampshire does not issue learner’s permits. At age 15, 6 months a person can drive while supervised by a licensed driver 25 or older. 
New Jersey16 years6 monthsNone Learner’s permit holders may not drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. and may carry only one passenger in addition to the supervising driver or any parent, guardian or dependent.
New Mexico15 years6 months50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightPermit applicants under 18 must take driver education.
New York16 years6 months50 hrs. including 15 hrs. at night
North Carolina15 years6 months60 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightDriver education is required for permit applicants under 18.
North Dakota14 years12 months for drivers under 16; otherwise, 6 months or until age 18 (whichever comes first)under 16: 50 hours; 16 and over: none
Ohio15 years, 6 mos.6 months50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at night
Oklahoma15 years, 6 mos. with driver’s ed6 months50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightFifteen-year-olds in Oklahoma can drive if supervised by an instructor.
Oregon15 years6 months50 hrs.; 100 hrs. w/o driver’s ed.
Pennsylvania16 years6 months65 hrs. including 10 hrs. at night and 5hrs. in inclement weather
Rhone Island16 years6 months50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightDriver education is required for permit applicants under 18.
South Carolina15 years6 months40 hrs. including 10 hrs. at night 
South Dakota14 years275 days (or 180 days after passing driver’s ed.)50 (10 at night and 10 in inclement weather)Learner’s permit holders may not drive between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless under the supervision of a parent or guardian.
Tennessee15 years6 months50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightLearner’s permit holders in Tennessee may not drive from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m
Texas15 years6 months30 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightPeople who are 15 or older but under 18 must satisfactorily complete and pass the classroom phase of an approved driver education course to be issued a permit.
Utah15 years18 months40 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightPermit holders younger than 18 may only drive under the supervision of a driving instructor, a parent or guardian, or a responsible adult who has accepted liability for the permit holder’s driving by signing the permit application. Permit applicants younger than 19 must be enrolled in driver education.
Vermont15 years12 months40 years including 10 hrs. at night
Virginia15 years, 5 mos.9 months45 hrs. including 15 hrs. at nightThe night driving restriction and passenger restrictions apply to learner’s permit holders.
Washington15 with driver’s ed; 15 years, 6 mos. without driver’s ed6 months50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightPermit applicants must be enrolled in driver education; otherwise, the minimum permit age is 15, 6 months.
West Virginia15 years6 months50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at night (none with driver’s ed.) Learner’s permit holders younger than 18 may not drive between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and may not carry more than two passengers in addition to the supervising driver
Wisconsin15 years, 6 mos.6 months30 hrs. including 10 hrs. at nightEnrollment in driver education is required for permit applicants younger than 18. During the learner’s stage, permit holders may carry three passengers if supervised by a driving instructor in a dual-control vehicle. Permit holders 16 and older may carry one passenger 25 or older who has been licensed at least two years.
Wyoming15 years10 days50 hrs. including 10 hrs. at night 

Intermediate stage

After you’ve logged sufficient time practicing on the road comes the intermediate GDL stage. Drivers in the intermediate stage are allowed to test for and get their state driver’s license but must do more work before having the same driving rights as more experienced drivers.

“The specific rules imposed upon an intermediate license holder will vary from state to state,” Joseph continues. “For example, in New Jersey, after completing a motor vehicle test and attaining a probationary driver’s license, the license holder will be permitted to drive unsupervised. But they will still be restricted to driving between 5 AM and 11 PM, and the number of passengers allowed with an intermediate license remains restricted.”

In other states, the rules will vary but the principle is the same: Get new drivers the experience they need to learn safe driving while not putting others at risk by restricting their access to the road, explains Joseph.

Here are the intermediate stage rules that apply to each state:

State Minimum age Times when unsupervised driving is prohibited Passenger restrictions Other regulations
Alabama16 yearsMidnight-6 a.m.No more than 1 passengerAt age 16, permit holders may drive with a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old.
Alaska16 years1 a.m.-5 a.m.First 6 months: no passengers under 21
Arizona16 yearsMidnight-5 a.m. (Secondary enforcement)First 6 months: no more than 1 under 18 (secondary enforcement)
Arkansas16 years11 p.m.-4 a.m.No more than 1 passenger younger than 21Applicants for an intermediate license must be 16 and must be crash/violation-free for six months. Licensees younger than 18 are prohibited from transporting passengers who are unrestrained.
California16 years11 p.m.- 5 a.m.First 12 months: no passengers under 20 (secondary enforcement) unless accompanied by parent, guardian or other adult 25 years or olderStudents enrolled in driver education may drive while supervised by an instructor. License applicants who do not take driver education must wait until age 18 for a license. They are not required to go through an intermediate license stage.
Colorado16 yearsMidnight-5 a.m.First 6 months: no passengers Second 6 months: no more than one passenger (secondary enforcement)At age 15, 6 months, driver education is no longer required, but applicants for this permit must have completed a four hour driver awareness program. At 16, young drivers may apply for a permit that allows driving while supervised by a licensed driver age 21 or older.
Connecticut16 years, 4 mos.11 p.m.-5 a.m.First 6 months: no passengers except parents or instructor, Second 6 months: no passengers except parents, instructor or immediate familyBefore an applicant who under 18 may take the driver’s test, parents or guardians must attend two hours of instruction regarding teen driving laws and related issues with such applicant
District of Colombia16 years, 6 mos.September through June: 11 p.m. – 6 a.m. (Sun-Thurs); Midnight – 6 a.m. (Fri-Sat) July through August: midnight – 6 a.m.First 6 months: no passengers Thereafter: No more than 2 passengers under 21Applicants younger than 21 must go through the intermediate stage until they’ve achieved full status or turn 21.
Delaware16 years, 6 mos.10 p.m.-6 a.m.No more than 1 passengerEveryone in a driver under 18 must have a seatbelt on. If not, the teen faces a two-month suspension. Driver education required for any applicant under 18.
Florida16 years11 p.m.-6 a.m.(age 16); 1 a.m.-5 a.m. (age 17)None
Georgia16 yearsMidnight-5 a.m.; secondary enforcementFirst 6 mos. no passengers; 2nd 6 mos. no more than 1 younger than age 21; thereafter no more than 3 passengers; secondary enforcementlicense applicants younger than 18 must have completed driver education.
Hawaii16 years11 p.m.-5 a.m.No more than 1 passenger younger than 18 except household membersLicense applicants younger than 18 must complete driver education.
Idaho15 yearsSunset to sunriseFirst 6 months: no more than 1 under 17License applicants younger than 17 must have completed driver education.
Illinois16 yearsSun-Thurs: 10 p.m. – 6 a.m Fri-Sat: 11 p.m. – 6 a.m.First 12 months: no more than 1 under 20License applicants 18 through 20 years of age who did not take driver’s education in school must complete a 6 hour adult driver education course.
Indiana16 years, 3 mos. with driver’s ed. 16 years, 9 mos. without driver’s ed.First 180 days: 10 p.m. – 5 a.m. After 180 days: 11 p.m. – 5 a.m. (Sun-Thurs); 1 a.m. – 5 a.m. (Fri-Sat)First 180 days: no passengersHolders of operator licenses issued to individuals younger than 21 must adhere to both the night and passenger restriction for six months or until age 21, whichever occurs first.
Iowa16 years12:30 a.m.-5 a.m.First six months, not more than one passenger under 18; parents may waive that requirement.In Iowa, driver education is required for an intermediate license and for an unrestricted license if the applicant is younger than 18.
Kansas16 (at 15, can drive without supervision to and from work or school)9 p.m.-5 a.m. for first six monthsNo more than 1 non-sibling for first six months.
Kentucky16 years, 6 mos.Midnight-6 a.m.No more than 1 passenger younger than 20 except with driving instructorLicense holders younger than 18 must complete a driver education course or a state-sponsored traffic school.
Louisiana16 years11 p.m.-5 a.m.No more than one passenger younger than 21 between the hours of 6 pm-5 am
Maine16 yearsMidnight-5 a.m.First 270 days: no passengersDriver education is required for a permit and a license if the applicant is younger than 18.
Maryland16 years, 6 mos.Midnight-5 a.m.No passengers younger than 18 for first five months; secondary enforcement License applicants who are 19 years old (or 18 with a high school diploma) but younger than 25 must hold a learner’s permit for three months before taking the road test. All applicants 25 and older must hold the permit for 45 days.
Massachusetts16 years, 6 mos.12:30 a.m.-5 a.m. (Secondary enforcement between 12:30 a.m.-1 a.m. and 4 a.m.-5 a.m.) First six months, no passengers younger than 18 The requirement for supervised driving is 30 hours for applicants who have successfully completed a driver skills development program in a closed, off-road course licensed by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles.
Michigan16 years10 p.m.-5 a.m.No more than 1 passenger younger than 21License applicants under 18 must complete the second segment of driver education.
Minnesota16 yearsMidnight-5 a.m.No more than 1 passenger younger than 20; 2nd 6 months no more than 3 passengers younger than 20License applicants younger than 18 must provide proof that a parent has taken a course for parents of teen drivers or perform an additional 10 certified practice hours.
Mississippi16 yearsSun-Thurs: 10 p.m. – 6 a.m. Fri-Sat: 11:30 p.m. – 6 a.m.None
Missouri16 years1 a.m.-5 a.m.First 6 months: no more than 1 under 19 Thereafter: no more than 3 under 19
Montana15 years11 p.m.-5 a.m.First 6 mos. no more than 1 passenger younger than 18; second 6 mos. no more than 3 passengers younger than 18License applicants under 16 must complete driver education.
Nebraska16 yearsMidnight-6 a.m.; secondary enforcementFirst 6 mos. no more than 1 passenger younger than 19; secondary enforcement
Nevada16 years10 p.m.-5 a.m.; secondary enforcementFirst 6 mos. no passengers younger than 18; secondary endorsementDriver education is required of all license applicants younger than 18 unless there is no driver education program offered within a 30-mile radius of the applicant’s residence.
New Hampshire16 years1 a.m.-4 a.m.No more than 1 passenger younger than 25 License applicants who are younger than 18 must take driver education.
New Jersey17 years11 p.m.-5 a.m.No more than 1 passenger except dependentsNight driving and passenger restrictions waived for new drivers who are at least 21.
New Mexico15 years, 6 mos.Midnight-5 a.m.No more than 1 passenger younger than 21License applicants under 18 must complete driver education.
New York16 years, 6 mos.9 p.m. – 5 a.m. except NYC (unsupervised driving prohibited at all times) and Long Island (limited daytime unsupervised allowed)No more than 1 passenger younger than 21 –
North Carolina16 years9 p.m.-5 a.m.No more than 1 under 21; if passenger under 21 is family, no other non-family passengers under 21Driver education is required for license applicants under 18.
North Dakota16; 15 for a parent- requested restricted licenseSunset or 9 p.m. (whichever is later) – 5 a.m.No passenger restrictionsDriver education is required for license applicants younger than 16.
Ohio16 yearsAge 16: midnight-6 a.m.; age 17: 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.; secondary enforcementFirst 12 months, no more than 1 unless supervisedDriver education is required of license applicants younger than 18. Applicants who are 18 and older and who have failed the road test must complete an abbreviated driver training course.
Oklahoma16 years10 p.m.-5 a.m.No more than 1 passenger A person who has been issued an intermediate Class D license shall not operate a motor vehicle with more than one passenger unless all passengers live in the same household as the custodial legal parent or legal guardian or a licensed driver at least 21 years of age is actually occupying a seat beside the intermediate Class D licensee.
Oregon16 yearsMidnight-5 a.m.First 6 mos. no passengers younger than 18Driver education is required of license applicants younger than 18. However, it is waived for applicants who certify an additional 50 hours of supervised driving.
Pennsylvania16 years, 6 mos.11 p.m.-5 a.m.First 6 months, no more than 1 passenger younger than 18; thereafter, no more than 3 passengers
Rhone Island16 years, 6 mos.1 a.m.-5 a.m.First 12 mos. no more than 1 passenger younger than 21Driver education is required of license applicants younger than 18. Parents or guardians of applicants who are younger than 18 will be required to attend a course of instruction on the content of the driver education curriculum and the requirements of graduated licensing.
South Carolina15 years, 6 mos.6 p.m.-6 a.m. EST; 8 p.m.-6 a.m. EDTNo more than 2 passengers under 21 except when driving to and from school
South Dakota14 + minimum of 6 months10 p.m. – 6 a.m. (exemption for going directly to or from school event, work or church event and driving agricultural machinery)No passengers outside of household for first 6 months; 1 passenger outside of household after 6 months.
Tennessee16 Years11 p.m.-6 a.m.No more than 1 passenger
Texas16 YearsMidnight-5 a.m.; secondary enforcementNo more than 1 passenger under 21; secondary enforcementThe minimum license is 18 for applicants who don’t complete driver education.
Utah16 YearsMidnight-5 a.m.for first six months, no passengers; secondary enforcementIn Utah license applicants who are younger than 19 must have completed driver education.
Vermont16 YearsNoneFirst 3 mos. No passengers; second 3 mos. no passengers except family; secondary enforcementIn Vermont, driver education is required for license applicants younger than 18.
Virginia16 years, 3 mos.Midnight-4 a.m.; secondary enforcementFirst 12 months: no more than 1 under 21 (secondary enforcement) Thereafter: no more than 3 under 21 under certain conditions (secondary enforcement)Driver education is required for license applicants younger than 18. Virginia has implemented a 90-minute segment for parents of driver education students.
Washington16 years1 a.m.-5 a.m.; secondary enforcementFirst 6 mos. No passengers younger than 20; 2nd 6 mos. No more than 3 passengers younger than 20; secondary enforcementIntermediate license holders with a crash or violation history are ineligible for an unrestricted license until age 18.
West Virginia16 years10 p.m.-5 a.m.No passengers younger than 20 for first 6 mos. No more than 1 passenger younger than 20 for second 6 mos.
Wisconsin16 yearsMidnight-5 a.m.No more than 1 passengerDriver education is required for license applicants younger than 18.
Wyoming16 years11 p.m.-5 a.m.No more than 1 passenger younger than 18All applicants for an unrestricted license who are younger than 17 must have completed driver education and must have held an intermediate license for at least six months.

Full privilege

After getting sufficient supervised driving experience behind the wheel, young drivers attain a level of full driving privileges. In most states, at this stage, the driver is allowed to have anyone in the car and drive at any time.

“Once drivers have completed the learner’s permit stage with a minimum number of hours logged and graduated to the intermediate stage with less supervision and a minimum number of months, they can apply for a full privilege driver’s license so long as they meet the minimum age requirement in their state,” McKenzie notes.

Here’s when each state allows full privileges:

State Full privilege minimum age
Alabama17 years
Alaska16 years, six months
Arizona16 years, six months
Arkansas18 years
California17 years
Colorado17 years
ConnecticutNighttime Driving: 18 Driving with Passengers: 17 years, 4 months
Delaware17 years
District of Columbia18 years
Florida18 years
Georgia18 years
Hawaii17 years
IdahoNighttime driving: 16 Driving with passengers: 15 years, 6 months
Illinois17 years, driving with passengers; 18 years, nighttime driving
Indiana17 years with drivers ed, driving with passengers; 17 years, three months, without drivers ed; 18 years, nighttime driving
Iowa17 years
Kansas16 years, six months
Kentucky17 years
Louisiana17 years
Maine16 years
Maryland16 years, 11 months, driving with passengers; 18 years, nighttime driving
Massachusetts17 years, driving with passengers; 18 years, nighttime driving
Michigan17 years
Minnesota16 years, six months, nighttime driving; 17 years, driving with passengers
Mississippi18 years
Missouri18 years
Montana16 years
Nebraska16 years, six months, driving with passengers; 17 years, nighttime driving
Nevada16 years, six months, driving with passengers; 18 years, nighttime driving
New Hampshire16 years, six months, driving with passengers; 17 years, one month, nighttime driving
New Jersey18 years
New Mexico16 years, six months
New York17 years with drivers ed; 18 years without drivers ed
North Carolina16 years, six months
North Dakota16 years
Ohio17 years, driving with passengers; 18 years, nighttime driving
Oklahoma16 years, six months with drivers ed; 17 years without drivers ed
Oregon17 years
Pennsylvania17 years with drivers ed and 12 months free of crash or conviction; 18 years without drivers ed
Rhode Island17 years, six months
South Carolina16 years, six months
South Dakota16 years
Tennessee17 years
Texas18 years
Utah16 years, six months, driving with passengers; 17 years, nighttime driving
Vermont16 years, six months
Virginia18 years
Washington18 years
West Virginia17 years
Wisconsin16 years, nine months
Wyoming16 years, six months

Can a 12-year-old drive?

In most states, teen drivers are not legally allowed to drive at age 12. However, a few states, such as California, Florida, Arizona, etc., let teenagers drive at the age of 15.

What states can you drive in at age 13?

Currently, no state in the country allows you to drive at younger than 14 years of age. So if you are age 13, you will have to wait at least a year until you can apply for and receive your learner’s permit, depending on your state of residency.

What state can you drive at age 14?

Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota are among the states that currently allow you to drive with a learner’s permit as young as age 14. Some of these states require you to wait a few months after your 14th birthday.

What state can you drive at age 15?

Currently, you can drive at the age of 15 in the following states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Be aware that some of these states mandate that you be a few months older than 15 years.

What states allow 16-year-old drivers?

In all other states – including Connecticut, Washington DC, Delaware, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island – you must be a minimum of 16 years old to begin driving with a learner’s permit.

The purpose of state laws for teen drivers is to ensure that new and inexperienced drivers are safe on the road. For instance, new drivers in most states are not allowed night driving or unsupervised driving. These rules may seem restrictive, but they can help prevent tragic accidents. Ultimately, following the state laws is the best way to ensure a safe driving experience for everyone.

Are there any 17-year-old driving restrictions?

Yes. Many states have Graduated Driver License (GDL) laws that restrict where and when a 17-year-old can drive. These laws typically require a new driver’s drive time to be limited to daytime hours, a passenger over a certain age to be present in the vehicle, passengers under a certain age shouldn’t be present in the vehicle, no cell phone use and limited to and from trips to work and school

How old do you have to be to have a passenger in your car?

When driving with a learner’s permit, you are typically only allowed to operate a motor vehicle with an adult parent, legal guardian, or licensed trained professional present as a passenger. As you graduate to higher levels of driving, more passengers with fewer restrictions are allowed. Even after receiving your full privilege driver’s license, your state may still impose restrictions on who can ride with you and the age of those passengers. To learn more, contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

Final thoughts: State laws for teen drivers

State laws for teen drivers vary widely across the United States, but most states have implemented a graduated driver licensing (GDL) system. This system typically involves a series of stages that gradually increase driving privileges as the teen gains experience and demonstrates safe driving behaviors. GDL programs have been shown to reduce crash rates among teen drivers. 

In addition to GDL requirements, many states have restrictions on cell phone use, nighttime driving, and the number of passengers allowed in the car with a teen driver. It is important for teen drivers and their parents to be aware of these specific laws in their state and to follow them closely to ensure safe driving practices.

Frequently asked questions on teen driving

Can a 16-year-old drive out of state?

According to attorney Jobin Joseph, whether or not a teenage driver can drive to another state will depend on their home state’s rules that issued their license in the state they intend to go to. Some states allow drivers with valid learner’s permits from any other state to drive into their state. Other states prohibit drivers with learner’s permits from doing so. Joseph recommends contacting the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state and the state you intend to drive into to determine what rules and restrictions apply.

Can a 17-year-old drive out of state?

This will depend on the rules of the state that issued your permit or license as well as the rules of the state you want to drive to, per attorney Jobin Joseph. He recommends contacting the Department of Motor Vehicles in both states to understand applicable laws.

How many passengers can a 16-year-old driver have?

While every state has its own set of rules regarding who can drive and how many passengers they are permitted, most states allow no more than one passenger if you are 16 or younger, according to attorney Jobin Joseph. It’s always best to check first with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles regarding passenger rules for young drivers.

Sources:

Governors Highway Safety Association. “Teen and Novice Drivers.” Accessed April 2023.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “Graduated licensing laws by state.” Accessed April 2023.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Teen Drivers and Passengers: Get the Facts.” Accessed April 2023.

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Erik Martin
Contributing Researcher

 
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Erik J. Martin is a Chicago area-based freelance writer whose articles have been published by AARP The Magazine, The Motley Fool, The Costco Connection, USAA, US Chamber of Commerce, Bankrate, The Chicago Tribune, and other publications. He often writes on topics related to insurance, real estate, personal finance, business, technology, health care, and entertainment. Erik also hosts a podcast and publishes several blogs, including Martinspiration.com and Cineversegroup.com.