Teens Teen Life Driving Age by State What You Need to Know for Your Teen to Safely and Legally Drive By Denise Witmer | Medically reviewed by a board-certified physician Updated March 10, 2019 Pin Flip Email Print Show Article Table of Contents Learner's Permit Night Driving Passenger Restrictions Cellphone Restrictions Driving Age by State View All Back To Top KidStock/Blend Images/Getty Images More in Teens Teen Life Growth & Development Behavior & Emotions Health & Safety Dating & Sexuality Getting a driver's license is a rite of passage for teenagers. But sadly, car crashes are the number one cause of death for young people. Many scientists argue that 16-year-olds just aren't mature enough to drive. Their brains aren't yet fully developed and they're more likely to take risks, become distracted, and make mistakes. As a way to help teens slowly gain driving responsibilities one step at a time, states adopted graduated license programs. These programs have restrictions for newly licensed drivers, such as a limit on the number of passengers or a curfew. A 2017 study found that graduated license programs have been instrumental in reducing car crashes among 16 and 17-year-olds. In fact, it's been so successful that some states are considering adopting graduated license programs for 18 to 20-year-olds who are becoming first-time drivers. Each state in the United States establishes their own driving laws, including laws about the age at which teens can begin driving, and the rules vary greatly about graduated license requirements. Learner's Permit Research shows many parents aren't good at teaching kids to become safe drivers. Instead, they depend too much on driver's education programs. Once your teen has a learner's permit, don't think of yourself as a passenger when your teen is behind the wheel. Think of yourself as a teacher. Help your teen learn to recognize potential safety issues while driving. Give instructions to help your teen improve and provide plenty of feedback—both positive and negative. Each state has different laws about learner's permits and how many hours a teen needs to be behind the wheel. Take those laws seriously and make sure you're helping your teen gain the experience he needs to become a safe driver. Night Driving Restrictions While a lack of sleep impairs everyone's performance, studies show sleep deprivation takes the most serious toll on teens. Teens are more likely to make errors when driving later into the evening. Approximately 2 out of 5 teen car crashes occur between 9 PM and 6 AM, so many states have enacted curfews to prevent teens from driving during the overnight hours. Restrictions on night driving may reduce teen car crashes by 19 percent. Each state determines what hours to restrict teens from driving. So while Alabama doesn't allow newly licensed teens to drive between midnight and 6 AM, North Carolina doesn't allow them to drive between 9 PM and 5 AM. Passenger Restrictions Each passenger a teen has in the car increases the chances of a car crash. Friends can serve as a serious distraction and they may encourage your teen to take unnecessary risks. Consequently, many states have decided to restrict passengers in cars driven by teens. While some states don't allow newly licensed teens to have passengers for several months, others restrict the number of minor passengers that can be in a car. Exceptions are usually made for siblings. Cellphone Restrictions Talking on the phone while driving serves as a major distraction that increases the likelihood a teen will make driving mistakes. So many states have adopted specific cellphone restrictions for young drivers. Unfortunately, some studies show cellphone restrictions may actually increase the chances that a teen will attempt to send text messages while behind the wheel. In an attempt to conceal cellphone use, teens may become even more distracted by trying to type messages on the sly. So it's important for parents to talk to teens about the risks of distracted driving. And if a teen is caught sending messages or using a cellphone while driving, there should be clear consequences. Driving Age by State The age at which teens may obtain their learner's permit and the laws about graduated licenses vary by state. So make sure to check on your local laws to find out when your teen can begin driving. State Learner's Permit Restricted License Full License Alabama 15 16 17 Alaska 14 16 16, 6 mos. Arizona 15, 6 mos. 16 16, 6 mos. Arkansas 14 16 18 California 15, 6 mos. 16 17 Colorado 15 16 17 Connecticut 16 16, 4 mos. 18 Delaware 16 16, 6 mos. 17 District of Columbia 16 16, 6 mos. 18 Florida 15 16 18 Georgia 15 16 18 Hawaii 15, 6 mos. 16 17 Idaho 14, 6 mos. 15 16 Illinois 15 16 18 Indiana 15. 16, 6 mos. 18 Iowa 14 16 17 Kansas 14 16 16, 6 mos. Kentucky 16 16, 6 mos. 17 Louisiana 15 16 17 Maine 15 16 16, 9 mos. Maryland 15, 9 mos. 16, 6 mos. 18 Massachusetts 16 16, 6 mos. 18 Michigan 14, 9 mos. 16 17 Minnesota 15 16 17 Mississippi 15 16 16, 6 mos. Missouri 15 16 18 Montana 14, 6 mos. 15 16 Nebraska 15 16 17 Nevada 15, 6 mos. 16 18 New Hampshire 15, 6 mos. 16 18 New Jersey 16 17 18 New Mexico 15 15, 6 mos. 16, 6 mos. New York 16 16, 6 mos. 17 w/classes or 18 North Carolina 15 16 16, 6 mos. North Dakota 14 15 16 Ohio 15, 6 mos. 16 18 Oklahoma 15, 6 mos. 16 16, 6 mos. Oregon 15 16 17 Pennsylvania 16 16, 6 mos. 17 with classes or 18 Rhode Island 16 16, 6 mos. 17, 6 mos. South Carolina 15 15, 6 mos. 16, 6 mos. South Dakota 14 14, 6 mos. 16 Tennessee 15 16 17 Texas 15 16 18 Utah 15 16 17 Vermont 15 16 16, 6 mos. Virginia 15, 6 mos. 16, 3 mos. 18 Washington 15 16 17 West Virginia 15 16 17 Wisconsin 15, 6 mos. 16 16, 9 mos. Wyoming 15 16 16, 6 mos. A Word From Verywell When it comes to letting your teen drive, don't depend on your state laws to keep your child safe. Create your own rules and restrictions for your teen's specific needs. Keep in mind that just because your teen is old enough to drive legally, it doesn't mean she's mature enough to handle the responsibility. If your 16-year-old is aggressive, impulsive, or irresponsible, don't let him behind the wheel. In order to be safe drivers, teens need to be able to think clearly, make good decisions, and resist temptations. Once your teen has a driver's license, increase her freedom slowly. Remember, that you don't have to grant new privileges just because the graduated licensing laws allow him to drive at night or use a cellphone in the car. You can continue to impose restrictions of your own. If your teen violates the law or breaks your rules, give him consequences. Take away his keys for a while or restrict the hours or places your teen drives. And consider enrolling your teen in programs that teach driver safety beyond driver's education. You might get a discount on car insurance, but more importantly, additional driver training could save your teen's life. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Get diet and wellness tips to help your kids stay healthy and happy. Email Address Sign Up There was an error. Please try again. Thank you, , for signing up. What are your concerns? Other Inaccurate Hard to Understand Submit Article Sources Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Teen Drivers: Get the Facts. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: Consumer Safety Brochures. Williams AF. Graduated driver licensing (GDL) in the United States in 2016: A literature review and commentary. Journal of Safety Research. August 2017. Continue Reading Article Tips for Teaching Teens to Drive Article Can My Teen Get a Piercing or Tattoo Without Me? Article At What Age Can My Teenager Register to Vote? List 8 Things You Should Know About Car Insurance for Teens Article Study Says Most Parents are Terrible at Teaching Their Teen How to Drive Article The Most Common and Dangerous Things to Do While Driving Article Beyond Driver Education: Programs that Teach Teen Drivers to be Safe Article Be Aware of These Texting Dangers That May Affect Your Teen Article When Is It OK to Leave Your Teen Home Alone Overnight? 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