Teen Driving Laws: Graduated Driver’s License
Because teen drivers have the highest crash risks of all driver age groups, all 50 states have implemented a three-stage graduated licensing program that reduces some of the risks. Under the Graduated Driver’s Licensing (GDL) program, teens are restricted as to when they drive and how many passengers they carry. The program also ensures that drivers have supervision while learning the fundamentals.
The GDL program has three stages, a learner stage, and intermediate stage, and an unrestricted stage.
Under the learner stage, drivers have a minimum age requirement they must meet before they take their written test and begin driving with supervision. In most states, the minimum age is 15, though, in some states like Arkansas, you only have to be 14 to take your written text. Drivers remain in the learner stage for generally six months to 12 months depending on the state, and most require the teen have been 40 and 70 hours of supervised driving practice before moving to the next stage.
The intermediate stage also has an age minimum (generally between 15 and 17 years of age) and restricts unsupervised driving during the night. In some states, teens cannot drive unsupervised between the hours of midnight and 6:00 am while in other states it is as early as 10:00 pm and as late as 1:00 am. This stage also restricts the number of passengers allowed in an unsupervised driver’s vehicle. For example, in Arkansas, an intermediate stage driver can carry no passengers under the age of 21, while in Minnesota, drivers can have no more than 1 passenger under the age of 20 for the first six months of this stage, after which they can carry up to three persons under the age of 20.
The unrestricted stage is still restricted as far as during what hours a teen can drive and how many passengers they can carry. For example, in Alabama, a 17-year-old driver can drive at night and with an unrestricted number of passengers only after they have been licensed for at least six months.
For more information about teen driving laws in your state, check out our state by state guides.