Question: At what age can teens start to drive? I heard that some states allow drivers to drive at 14 years of age. It seems way too young to me.
Answer: The age at which a teenager can start to drive varies greatly depending upon the state in which the adolescent resides.
In nine states, teenagers can enter the learner stage of a graduated driver licensing (GDL) system and obtain an instructional permit before turning 15 years of age. In some rare circumstances, a teen can drive alone with restrictions at age 14.
I think 14 is young, and so do many safety experts who recommend waiting until age 16.
If you have a child who is approaching licensing age, it’s wise to view your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website to read up on the requirements your state has in place for its GDL process.
Typically, in the first stage – the learner’s permit – the child will need to have to have a supervising driver in the passenger seat. For the intermediate stage, the teen can drive alone but with restrictions. And with the full license the young driver is able to drive without restrictions. To move through the GDL system, most states require that the teen take certain training in class and behind-the-wheel driver education courses.
Here is a breakdown of age requirements for a learner’s permit, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association:
- Alaska 14
- Arkansas 14
- Iowa 14
- Kansas 14
- North Dakota 14
- South Dakota 14
- Idaho 14 years and 6 months
- Montana 14 years and 6 months
- Michigan 14 years and 9 months
- Alabama 15
- Colorado 15 (with driver’s education class or 16 without)
- Florida 15
- Georgia 15
- Illinois 15
- Indiana 15 (with driver’s education class or 16 without)
- Louisiana 15
- Maine 15
- Minnesota 15
- Mississippi 15
- Missouri 15
- Nebraska 15
- New Mexico 15
- North Carolina 15
- Oregon 15
- South Carolina 15
- Tennessee 15
- Texas 15
- Utah 15
- Vermont 15
- Washington 15 (with driver’s education or 15 years 6 months without)
- West Virginia 15
- Wyoming 15
- Arizona 15 years and 6 months
- California 15 years and 6 months
- Hawaii 15 years and 6 months
- Nevada 15 years and 6 months
- New Hampshire 15 years and 6 months
- Ohio 15 years and 6 months
- Oklahoma 15 years and 6 months
- Virginia 15 years and 6 months
- Wisconsin 15 years and 6 months
- Maryland 15 years and 9 months
- Connecticut 16
- Delaware 16
- District of Columbia 16
- Kentucky 16
- Massachusetts 16
- New Jersey 16
- New York 16
- Pennsylvania 16
- Rhode Island 16
In some states, teens can drive even earlier than what is listed above if they are approved for a hardship permit or license.
For instance, in Michigan a 14-year-old can request a restricted driver’s license if the individual can prove there is a severe hardship in their family farming operation and no other transportation is available.
And in Wyoming at 14, one can apply for a restricted learner’s permit if the minor meets certain criteria (such as living more than five miles from school). And after only 10 days of carrying the permit, the teen can apply for a full restricted driver’s license.
Getting a teen driver insured
When a child enters the GDL process with an instructional learner’s permit the parents should notify their car insurance company.
Some insurance providers will require the young driver to be added to the policy, and thus charge for the teen at this point. Other auto insurers will allow parents to wait until the child moves up to the next stage and has a license (and can drive without supervision) to require the child be listed on the policy.
Whenever the teenager is placed on the car insurance policy, rates will go up significantly.
Because teens are immature and inexperienced drivers that have a high likelihood of being in accidents and causing claims to be paid out, car insurance companies find them to be high-risk drivers. This results in sky-high car insurance rates.
To delay the pain of the car insurance hike for a teen, you can have your child wait until he or she is older to start the licensing process. If your state allows a child to get a learner’s permit at 14, that doesn’t mean you have to let your child get one, since a parent or guardian must sign for it, unless you feel he or she is mature enough to start driving.