Driver's License Laws for Teens

Learning to drive signifies one thing to teens across the country: freedom. While most teens view driving as the perfect way to take charge of their lives, the fact is that teen drivers are at high risk for accidents. Their inexperience led to over 250,000 injuries and nearly 2,400 deaths in 2019 alone.

This is why all 50 states and the District of Columbia place limits on driving privileges for teens. Usually, this is through a graduated license system. This includes a teen driver’s license that comes with rules that standard adult driver’s licenses don’t have. It’s important to know the laws in your own state so you don’t break the rules and get that new license suspended or revoked.

Here’s what you need to know right after getting your license.

Unsupervised Driving

When teen drivers get a learner’s permit, they are allowed to drive alone. But, there are still some restrictions. All states except for Vermont have "Cinderella" laws that bar teens from driving alone at night. The hours of restriction vary by state, though 11 p.m. and midnight are the most common cutoffs. The most restrictive states are Idaho and North Dakota, which ban teens from driving once the sun goes down. In winter, that could be as early as 4:30 in the afternoon!

Passenger Limits

Studies have found that teen driving deaths increase when there are additional passengers in the vehicle. For this reason, most states restrict the number of passengers teen drivers may have when they’re behind the wheel. Depending on the state, these laws may limit passengers under a certain age, the number of total passengers, or both.

Some states carve out exceptions for the driver’s siblings, while others tie these restrictions to nighttime driving only. Unless you live in Mississippi, North Dakota, or South Dakota, check your driver’s manual to understand how these rules will affect your plans.

Cell Phone Use

Distracted driving is dangerous, and cell phones have made keeping eyes on the road trickier than ever. Many states have distracting driving laws for drivers of all ages, but 37 states also ban cell phone use outright for drivers under 18. Some states make an exception for using a cell phone to make an emergency call, but texting or using other apps while driving is strictly forbidden. Your best bet? Put the phone down when behind the wheel!

How Long Do These Teen Driving Restrictions Last?

Each state makes its own rules for teen drivers. In most states full, unrestricted driving privileges come automatically when the driver turns 18. In New Jersey and Washington, DC, teen drivers aren’t granted full licenses until they are 21. Some states reduce or eliminate teen driving restrictions with proof of additional driver education or after holding a license for a certain amount of time without an accident. It’s always a good idea to check with your own state to understand its laws.

If your teen is ready to drive, online driver’s ed is a great way to get started! Learning the rules of the road is an important first step, and many states require teen drivers to complete driver education or driver training course. You can also have your teen try practice tests online or sign up for in-car driving lessons with a professional instructor today.

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