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Wondering if it is illegal to drive without a license?

Driving without a license or a suspended or revoked license, is illegal in all 50 states and the consequences of driving without a license can be severe. In most cases, the first offense is not a simple traffic infraction, but a misdemeanor that carries much heavier penalties than a traffic ticket. Once you move on to a second offense and beyond, it can end up being a felony.

The penalty for driving without a license can range from $50 in Wisconsin (for driving on a suspended license, driving on a revoked license can push the cost to $2,500) up to $25,000 (second offense) in Illinois. You will face a license suspension, two months on the low end up to a year for a first offense. If it's a second offense, you will probably be hoofing it for at least one to two years. There is also a good chance your vehicle will be impounded, or your license plate confiscated.

Jail time (up to five years) is a very real possibility for anything other than a first offense, as is community service, not to mention your permanent driving record will now have a misdemeanor listed on it.

If you have never had a license, fines for driving without a license will probably be less severe compared to someone caught driving with a suspended or revoked license -- but it is still a misdemeanor instead of a traffic ticket. In most states, if you are driving with a suspended or revoked license, you will be leaving the scene in handcuffs.

What happens if you drive without a license?

The penalty for driving without a license will vary depending on a number of different factors. What state you live in, whether the license was suspended or revoked, and whether or not this was your first offense will all impact the fees and possible jail time you will be facing.

Here is a breakdown of what you can expect state by state if you are cruising the streets without a license:

State Fees 1st Offense Penalty Subsequent Offense
AlabamaMisdemeanor: $100-$500Possible imprisonment for no more than 180 days and immediate vehicle impoundment. Possible license suspension increase by 6 months.
AlaskaFirst Offense -  Class A Misdemeanor: 10 day suspended imprisonment provided at least 80 hours of community service are completed; possible forfeiture of vehicle; license suspension increased by at least 90 days.Subsequent Offense - Class A Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for at least 10 days; possible forfeiture of vehicle; license suspension increased by at least 90 days.
ArizonaClass 1 Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for up to 6 months; possible vehicle impoundment for up to 30 daysDriving on a suspended or revoked license - Class 2 misdemeanor This charge carries a potential sentence of 4 months in jail and fines of up to $750.
ArkansasMisdemeanor: Fine no more than $500Imprisonment for between 2 days and 6 monthsShall extend the period of the suspension for an additional like period and, if the conviction was upon a charge of driving while a license was revoked, the office shall not issue a new license for an additional period of one (1) year from and after the date such person would otherwise have been entitled to apply for a new license.
California$300-$1,000 FineImprisonment for between 5 days and 6 monthsSubsequent Offense - Imprisonment for between 10 days and 1 year; $500-$2000 fine.
ColoradoMisdemeanor - No more than $500Imprisonment for no more than 6 months, license suspension increased by 1 year. 
If the license restraint is due to an alcohol related offense there is a mandatory 30 days to 1 year in jail for a first offense. Minimum fine of $500 to $1,000.
Subsequent Offense - Driver ineligible to be issued a driver’s license for a period of three years. 
A second alcohol-based driving under restraint will result in a mandatory 90-day to 2-year jail sentence. Minimum fine of $500 to $3,000.
Connecticut$150 - $200Imprisonment for no more than 3 monthsSubsequent Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 1 year, $200-$600 fine, or both.
Delaware$500-$1,000Imprisonment for between 30 days and 6 months. Possible vehicle impoundment of at least 90 daysSubsequent Offense - Imprisonment for between 60 days and 1 year; $1,000-$4,000 fine; possible vehicle impoundment of at least 1 year.
District of Columbia$2,500Imprisonment for no more than 1 year
FloridaMisdemeanor $500 - $5,000First Offense - 2nd Degree Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 60 days or $500 fineSecond Offense - 1st Degree Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 1 year or $1,000 fine.Subsequent Offense- 3rd Degree Felony: Imprisonment for no more than 5 years or $5,000 fine. Immediate vehicle impoundment.
GeorgiaMisdemeanor - $500 -$5,000First Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for between 2 days and 1 year; possible additional fine of no more than $1,000.Second or Third Offenses -  High and Aggravated Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for between 10 days and 1 year; possible additional fine of $1,000-$2,500. Fourth or Subsequent Offenses - Felony: Imprisonment for 1-5 years; possible addition fine of $2,500-$5,000.
Hawaii$250-$2,000First Offense - Imprisonment for 3-30 days; $250-$1,000 fine; license suspension increased by 1 year; additional, inapplicable penalties.Second Offense - Imprisonment for 30 days; $1,000 fine; license suspension increased by 2 years; additional. Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for 1 year, $2,000 fine. permanent license revocation; Additional, inapplicable penalties.
IdahoMisdemeanor - $1,000 -$3,000First Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for between 2 days and 6 months; fine of no more than $1,000; license suspension increased by 180 days.Second Offense - Imprisonment for between 20 days and 1 year; fine of no more than $1,000; license suspension increased by 1 year. Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for between 30 days and 1 year; fine of no more than $3,000; license suspension increased by 2 years.
IllinoisMisdemeanor - $2,500 -$25,000First Offense - Class A Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 1 year; fine of no more than $2,500.Subsequent Offense - Class 4 Felony: Imprisonment for 1-3 years; fine of up to $25,000. Possible vehicle impoundment. Fourth or Subsequent Offenses - Possible seizure of license plate; possible vehicle immobilization.
IndianaFelony - No more than $10,000Class 6 Felony - Imprisonment for between 6 months and 2 years, 6 months; fine of no more than $10,000.
IowaMisdemeanor - $250 -$1,500License suspension increased for an additional like period or for one year, whichever is shorter.
KansasMisdemeanor: $100First Offense - Class B Nonperson Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for at least 5 days; fine of at least $100.Subsequent Offense - Class A Nonperson Misdemeanor: Imprisonment without eligibility for parole until completion of 5 days; fine of at least $100. License suspension increased by 90 days.
KentuckyMisdemeanor: Up to $250First Offense - Class B Misdemeanor: Imprisonment up to 90 days; license suspension increased by 6 months. Fine up to $250Second Offense - Class A Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for between 90 days and 1 year; license suspension increased by 1 year. Third or Subsequent Offense - Class D Felony: Imprisonment for 1-5 years; license suspension revoked for additional 2 years.
Louisiana$500-$2,500Person with a Class D or E driver’s license: Imprisonment for no more than 6 months, fine of no more than $500, or both. May be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,250. Person with a Class A, B, or C driver’s license: Imprisonment for no more than 6 months, fine of no more than $5,000, or both. May be subject to a civil penalty of up to $2,500.Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for between 7 days and 6 months; fine of $300-$500; potential civil fine of no more than $1,150. Subsequent Offense - Class A, B, or C driver’s license: Imprisonment for between 7 days and 6 months; fine of $300-$500; potential civil fine of no more than $2,500. License suspension increased by 1 year
MaineClass E Crime: Up to $1,000First Offense – Class E: Crimes punishable by up to six months incarceration and a $1,000 fine
MarylandMisdemeanor - $1,000First Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 1 year, fine of no more than $1,000, or both; possible license suspension increased by no more than 1 year.Subsequent Offense - Misdemeanor Imprisonment for no more than 2 years, fine of no more than $1,000, or both; possible license suspension increased by no more than 18 months if second offense, no more than 2 years for subsequent offenses. Possible vehicle impoundment.
MassachusettsMisdemeanor - $500 -$1,000First Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 10 days, $500-$1,000 fine, or bothSubsequent Offense - Imprisonment for between 60 days and 1 year. License suspension increased by 60 days.
MichiganMisdemeanor - $500 -$1,000First Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 93 days, a fine of no more than $500, or both.Second Offense -  Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 1 year, a fine of no more than $1,000, or both. Cancellation of vehicle’s registration plates.License suspension increased by like period.
MinnesotaMisdemeanor - No more than $1,000Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for no more than 90 days, fine of no more than $1,000, or both.
MississippiMisdemeanor - $200 -$500Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for between 48 hours and 6 months; $200-$500 fine; license suspension increased by 6 months.
MissouriFirst Offense - Class D Misdemeanor: Up to $500 fine. No set term of imprisonment; not to exceed one year.Second Offense - Class A Misdemeanor: Fine not to exceed $2,000. Imprisonment for between 6 months and 1 year. Subsequent Offense - Class E Felony: Imprisonment for no more than 4 years.
MontanaMisdemeanor - No more than $500First Offense – Fine not to exceed $500 and term of imprisonment not to exceed 6 months.Imprisonment for no less than 2 days and not to exceed 6 months, license suspension increased by 1 year, vehicle used is seized and rendered inoperable for 30 days.
NebraskaFirst Offense - Class II Misdemeanor: Unable to operate any motor vehicle for 1 year; license revocation for like period.Second or Third Offense - Class II Misdemeanor: Unable to operate any motor vehicle for 2 year; license revocation for like period. Fourth or Subsequent Offense - Class I Misdemeanor: Unable to operate any motor vehicle for 2 year; license revocation for like period.
NevadaMisdemeanor - No more than $1,000Imprisonment for no more than 6 months, a fine of no more than $1,000, or both. If license suspended, extension of suspension by like period. If license (revoked), extension of period of ineligibility for license by 1 year.
New HampshireMisdemeanor - No more than $1,000Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for a period not less than 7 consecutive 24-hour periods to be served within 6 months of the conviction, fine of no more than $1,000; license suspension increased by 1 year.
New Jersey$500-$1,000First Offense - $500 fine.Second Offense - Imprisonment for 1-5 days; $750 fine. Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for 10 days; $1,000 fine. License suspension increased by no more than 6 months.
New MexicoMisdemeanor - No more than $1,000Imprisonment for 4-364 days; possible fine of no more than $1,000. Possible vehicle immobilization.
New YorkMisdemeanor - $250 -$500First Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 30 days, $200-$500 fine, or both.Subsequent Offens - : Imprisonment for no more than 180 days; fine of no less than $500.
North CarolinaMisdemeanor - No more than $300First Offense - Class 3 Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for 1-10 days; fine of no more than $200; license suspension increased by 1 year.Second Offense - License suspension increased by 2 years. Third Offense - Permanent license suspension.
North DakotaMisdemeanor - $1,500 -$3,000First, Second or Third Offense - Class B Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 30 days, $1,500 fine, or both.Fourth or Subsequent Offense - Class A Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for no more than 1 year, $3,000 fine, or both.Possible destruction of license plate.
OhioMisdemeanor - $1,000First Offense - Unclassified Misdemeanor: Fine of no more than $1,000; 500 hours community service.Subsequent Offense - 1st Degree Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 180 days; $1,000 fine. Possible license plate impoundment.
OklahomaMisdemeanor - $50-$1,000First Offense - $100-$500 fine.Second Offense): $200-$750 fine. Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 1 year, $300-$1,000 fine, or both.
Oregon$220-$2,000Class A Traffic Infraction: $220-$2,000 fine. Possible vehicle impoundment.
Pennsylvania$200Summary Offense: $200 fine; license suspension increased by 1 year if originally suspended, 2 years if it was originally revoked.
Rhode IslandMisdemeanor - $250-$1,000First Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 30 days; $250-$500 fine; license suspension increased by 3 months.Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 1 year; $350-$1,000 fine; 2nd Offense - license suspension increased by 6 months, license revoked.
South Carolina$300-$1,000First Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 30 days, $300 fine, or both.Second Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 60 days, $600 fine, or both. Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 90 days; $1,000 fine.
South DakotaMisdemeanor - No more than $2,000Revoked - Class 1 Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 1 year; fine of no more than $2,000. Suspended or Cancelled - Class 2 Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 30 days; fine of no more than $500.
TennesseeMisdemeanor - $500 -$2,500First Offense - Class B Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for not more than 6 months, fine of no more than $500, or both; license suspension increased by like period of time.Subsequent Offense - Class A Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for not more than 11 months, 29 days, fine of no more than $2,500, or both; license suspension increased by like period of time.
TexasMisdemeanor - $500 -$2,000First Offense - Class C Misdemeanor: Fine of no more than $500.Subsequent Offense - Class B Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 180 days, fine of no more than $2,000, or both.
UtahMisdemeanor - $1,000Class C Misdemeanor: Imprisonment of no more than 90 days; up to $750 fine.
VermontNo more than $5,000First Offense - Imprisonment for no more than 2 years, fine of no more than $5,000, or both.Sixth or Subsequent Offense - Imprisonment for no more 2 years, fine of $5,000, or both. Possible seizure of license plates.
VirginiaMisdemeanor - No more than $2,500Class 1 Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for no more than 12 months, fine of no more than $2,500, or both.
WashingtonMisdemeanor - No more than $5,000Gross Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for no more than 364 days, fine of no more than $5,000, or both.
West VirginiaMisdemeanor - $100 -$500First Offense Misdemeanor - $100-$500 fine.Second Offense -  Misdemeanor: $100-$500 fine. Third or Subsequent Offense - Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for 30-90 days; $150-$500 fine.
Wisconsin$50-$2,500Suspended - $50-$200 fine. Revoked - Fine of no more than $2,500.Vehicle may be impounded
WyomingMisdemeanor - $750Misdemeanor - Imprisonment for no more than 6 months, fine of no more than $750, or both.

**Data Provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Can you drive without a license in your wallet?

The penalty for driving without a license on you is definitely not as serious as driving with a suspended or revoked license. While you will most likely get a ticket, it is a simple traffic infraction, not a misdemeanor. If you show up at court with your valid driver's license there is a good chance the ticket will be dismissed, although you may need to pay a small fine.

Is driving without a license a felony?

In most states, you have to be caught out on the road without a license multiple times before you hit felony territory but, in many states, your first offense will be a misdemeanor, not a traffic infraction.

If you have ever asked the question, "can you go to jail for driving without a license in Texas," or any other state for that matter, the answer is a resounding yes. In the Lone Star state, your second offense is considered a Class B Misdemeanor and comes with the possibility of Imprisonment for no more than 180 days.

While Texas waits until the second offense to include jail time, many other states allow it on the first offense.

As an example, if you get caught driving without a license in Florida you can end up in the clink for your first offense and by your third offense, you will be looking at a felony. Here are the exact penalties in the Sunshine State:

  • First Offense: 2nd Degree Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 60 days or $500 fine.
  • Second Offense: 1st Degree Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for no more than 1 year or $1,000 fine.
  • Subsequent Offense: 3rd Degree Felony: Imprisonment for no more than 5 years or $5,000 fine. Immediate vehicle impoundment.

Penalty for driving without a license under 18

In most states, the police and courts are not going to care how old you are, the same penalties will apply. If a minor has a valid license and just left it at home, a traffic ticket and a small fine will most likely be the only penalty they face.

However, if they decide to take a car out for a spin with a suspended or revoked license, they will be looking at a much bigger penalty. In most states (as the chart shows) the first offense is a misdemeanor and comes with a hefty fine. Exact fees and penalties will be up the judge and will vary by your specific situation.

A teen who doesn't yet have a license and is caught driving will be looking at some hefty fees and more than likely a delay in getting their license. Many states suspend a license for a certain number of months when a person is caught driving without a license, this penalty will most likely be applied to a teen as well, delaying their right to get a license for the same amount of time.

The exact penalty will be set by a judge or D.A. and will vary by the state you live in and your circumstances.

Can you get car insurance with no license?

The answer to this question is yes but it can be difficult. If you don't have a license or currently have a suspended or revoked license you may still need insurance for a variety of reasons.

Here are just a couple of reasons you may need car insurance coverage even if you don't have a vehicle:

  • An underage driver in the house: Most insurance companies will not let a driver under 18 purchase insurance coverage on their own because they cannot legally enter into a contract so if you have a teen child in the house who drives you still need insurance coverage regardless of whether you drive or not.
  • A personal driver or caregiver: If you have lost your license or can no longer drive due to health reasons you may need a personal driver and if they are driving your car, you will need that car to be insured.

Insurance companies don't love customers who are looking for auto insurance with no license. In most cases, you have to submit your driver's license number to apply for a policy. While it can be more difficult, it is absolutely possible to buy a policy without a license although you may have to be an excluded driver.

Instead of using your own driver's license on the policy application, you may be allowed to apply for a policy using the name and license number of the primary driver of your car. This way you are listed on the policy for a car you own but are not technically a driver on the policy.

A primary driver can be anyone that is licensed and will be driving your car on a regular basis. It can be a spouse, teenager, or even a roommate or caretaker. However, the premium will be based on the primary driver's record so choose someone with a decent driving record to keep your premiums affordable.

You may need to list yourself as an excluded driver on the policy which means that if you end up behind the wheel of your car (or any car for that matter) you will have zero coverage. You will be solely responsible for the cost of any damage you do to your car as well as other people and their vehicles if you drive a car as an excluded driver.

What’s the difference between a suspended and revoked License?

Driving on a suspended or revoked license is the big leagues when it comes to traffic violations, but in most cases, driving on a revoked license is the more serious offense.

Here's a quick overview of these two violations:

Suspended: A suspended license is a temporary loss of your driving privileges often due to an excessive amount of points on your license, driving without proof of insurance, or another major offense. In some states, the suspension ends automatically, and your license is re-instated. In other states, you may have to apply to your DMV to have the suspension lifted.

There can be factors that lessen the severity of driving on a suspended license and one of these is whether or not you knew you were driving on a suspended license. "When it comes to driving without a license in Florida, the first offense is often "without knowledge" which means the driver didn't know that their license was suspended," says Arion Hunt, founder of the Arion Hunt Law Firm in Orlando. "This carries a civil infraction moving violation penalty similar to a speeding ticket," advises Hunt.

There are a few different reasons you could be hitting the streets with a suspended license and not know it, but in most cases, it's due to unpaid traffic tickets. If you forget to send in the payment for a speeding ticket, your license may end up suspended and the next time you are pulled over, you could be in for a surprise, and possibly some handcuffs.

This is actually fairly common, "I would say that the vast majority of drivers charged with this crime are surprised to learn their license is suspended, and all of them are shocked to learn of its consequences, says Derek Andrews with Phelan, Phelan & Danek in Albany, NY.

It should be noted that every state is different in how it deals with driving on a suspended or revoked license and while Florida may give you the benefit of the doubt that you were unaware of the suspended status of your license, not every state will extend that courtesy.

On the other hand, if you know your license is suspended and decide to drive anyway, the penalties become exponentially steeper. "In Florida, upon the first conviction "with knowledge," a violator faces a second-degree misdemeanor, $500 fine, jail time, probation, community service, and a court-ordered eight-hour driving class," warns Hunt. Again, this only applies to Florida.

Revoked: This is the more serious of the two infractions. It means that your license has been canceled and after you meet any requirements or time frames imposed, you will need to reapply for an entirely new license. A revocation of a license is usually due to a serious infraction, such as a DUI.

The penalty for driving with a suspended or revoked license will vary by state, but in most cases, a hefty fine is involved, ranging up to $25,000. Your suspension time will absolutely be increased and in almost every state jail time is also on the table -- the odds of serving time will vary by state and the seriousness of your offense.

In almost every state, driving with a suspended or revoked license is a misdemeanor for a first offense. When you are a repeat offender with a second or third offense, you may be looking at a felony and will almost certainly be spending some time behind bars.

"A driver who continues to drive on a suspended license gets labeled habitual and faces felony charges, $5,000 fine, five years of jail and parole. A judge can also order additional requirements on a case-by-case basis," says Hunt.

You will pay a higher insurance premium after driving with a suspended license

Operating a motor vehicle with a suspended or revoked license may be tempting, but it is a huge and ultimately very expensive mistake.

While you may think you won't get caught, technology is making it easier for the police to determine the status of your license. "People who knowingly take the risk should know that police departments have implemented license plate scanning technology that tells them if the registered owner of the car has a suspended or revoked driver's license," warns Hunt.

In most cases, your license has been suspended or revoked because of a major driving offense, for example, DUI or reckless driving. Adding driving with a revoked license will only increase your time without a license and will possibly land you in the clink.

In addition to the fines for driving without a license, you can expect your insurance rates to increase. Driving with a suspended or revoked license is severely frowned upon by insurers, as they deem it high-risk behavior, so expect your rates to climb.

"Rates can easily increase anywhere between 25 % to 30 % when an insurance company sees that you were arrested for driving with a suspended or revoked license, advises Sa El, Co-Founder of Simply Insurance.

If your license is suspended or revoked for a long time (think six months to a year or more) it will only increase your insurance pain. "If your license has been suspended for a long period, expect your insurer to cancel your policy once it learns of the suspension, leaving you with a gap in coverage that will lead to higher rates when you apply for coverage again," says Penny Gusner, consumer analyst for CarInsurance.com.

CarInsurance.com rate data show that you will pay an average of 9 to 13 more for coverage if you have a lapse in your policy.

What happens when you let someone drive your car without a license?

Unless you are in the mood for a financial nightmare, never let an unlicensed driver get behind the wheel of your car.

In almost all cases, car insurance follows the car, not the driver. That means if your unlicensed friend or family member is in an accident with your car, it will be your insurance policy that is on the hook.

Unfortunately, since an unlicensed driver was behind the wheel, your insurance company is on solid legal ground to deny your claim, making you solely responsible for the cost of repairing or replacing your car.

"Most policies have a clause that states that for the coverages to be in effect the driver must have a valid license," says Gusner.

If your friend was responsible for the accident, you could be picking up the tab for the other person's car, their medical bills and a legal defense if the other driver decides to sue you. In addition, you may receive a ticket, even if you aren't in the car at the time. "In some states, you can be charged if you knowingly allow someone without a license to drive your vehicle," says Gusner. "You can receive jail time, fines, and your car can be impounded, depending on the state laws."

You can expect a dramatic increase in your insurance costs and there is a good chance your insurance company will simply cancel your policy, which can make finding a new policy challenging, and expensive.

As a final kick in the pants, many states will impound a vehicle if an unlicensed driver is behind the wheel after a traffic stop or accident. Afterward, you will be paying the various fees handed down by law enforcement and the motor vehicle department to get your car out of the doghouse.

One in five unlicensed drivers involved in fatal accidents

It turns out that there is good reason to keep unlicensed drivers off the road. They are much more dangerous than licensed drivers. According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, one in five fatal car crashes involves a driver who doesn't have a license or whose license status is unknown to law enforcement.

According to their data, 6.7 % had a license that had had been suspended or revoked, 1.1% had a license that had expired or had been canceled or denied, and 5.0% were unlicensed. When you add it all up it turns out that 18.2 % of fatal crashes in 2007-2009 involved drivers who were unlicensed or invalidly licensed. These accidents killed 21,049 people.

Once you make the leap to driving with a suspended license there is a good chance you will end up a repeat offender. The AAA study found that 28 % of the unlicensed drivers had already received three or more suspensions or revocations in the three years before they got into a deadly accident.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) agrees with the AAA findings. The NHTSA looked at the numbers for 2012 and found that:

  • Nineteen % of motor vehicle fatalities involved drivers with invalid licenses.
  • Drivers with invalid licenses comprised 13 % of all drivers involved in fatal crashes.
  • Motorcycle operators involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes were the most likely to have invalid licenses.
  • Male drivers involved in fatal crashes had invalid licenses more frequently than did female drivers.
  • Other than those under age 16, drivers 21 to 34 had the highest proportion of invalid licenses in fatal crashes.

The NHTSA data also looked at which states have the most fatal accidents with invalidly licensed drivers behind the wheel. Hawaii was unlucky number one with 31 % of fatal accidents involving a driver with a less than valid driver's license. The top five shook out as follows:

  • Hawaii - 31 %
  • Vermont - 27 %
  • Texas - 26 %
  • California - 25 %
  • Colorado - 24 %

On the other side of the coin, these states had the fewest fatal accidents related to unlicensed drivers:

  • New Hampshire - 6 %
  • Alaska and Nebraska - 8 %
  • Maine - 9 %
  • Maryland - 10 %
  • Idaho - 11 %

You may be eligible for a hardship license

If your license is suspended, there may be a way to get back on the road with a hardship license.  A hardship license is issued when your normal driver's license has been revoked or suspended. It allows you to drive, but only under certain circumstances and for approved reasons, mainly to get back and forth to work.

It doesn’t matter if you are trying to get a hardships license in Texas or any other state for that matter, you will have to prove that the lack of a driver's license is causing a hardship for your family, which in many states is not difficult but can be time consuming.

In Illinois, for example, drivers must send a written request to the Secretary of State, attend a hearing, and also complete any required courses or counseling. Florida requires taking and passing a 12-hour traffic school.

Is a hardship license a valid license?

Technically, it is absolutely a valid license, but it comes with a wide variety of restrictions. Once you have been approved for a hardship or restricted driving permit (RDP), as they call it in Illinois, you are legal to drive, but there are many restrictions. If you are wondering, “can I drive to the grocery store with a hardship license, the answer is probably yes, but it can depend on the restrictions imposed by your particular state. In most cases, you can only drive to approved locations, usually work, daycare or school and a few stores for errands. Many states assign a nighttime curfew.

You will be required to show proof of car insurance before a restricted license is issued, says CarInsurance.com consumer analyst Penny Gusner. If a DUI is involved, most states also require an SR-22 from your insurer, verifying your insurance coverage. If you drop your coverage, the DMV is notified, and your restricted license revoked.

When you do get your license reinstated, you may have to file an SR-22, which is a form that serves as an insurance company’s guarantee to your state that you have the required insurance coverage in place. You will pay much higher car insurance rates because of the offense that triggered the suspension and the SR-22 filing.

You probably won’t be able to get a hardship license as soon as your regular license is suspended. In some states there is a mandatory waiting period before a DUI offender can apply for a hardship license, typically 45-90 days. Many states limit hardship licenses to first-time DUI offenders, and other states, like New Jersey and Rhode Island, don't offer a hardship program at all.

Getting caught driving after hours or for unapproved reasons will result in your hardship license being revoked. Most states don't offer second chances.

Car insurance and a hardship license

When it comes to your insurance premium, a hardship license will often push up your rates, but it usually depends on why your license was suspended in the first place.

An administrative suspension -- one stemming from an unpaid traffic ticket or back child support -- is typically seen as a minor offense and will not have a huge effect on rates, Gusner says.

If the underlying cause of the suspension is a DUI, your rates usually go up dramatically, if you can find a company to insure you at all. Gusner warns that premiums will usually shoot up from 30 to 200 percent. In North Carolina, the increase could top 340 percent.

A DUI stays on your motor vehicle record for at least five to seven years in most states, so the pain will continue at each renewal even after the suspension has ended. New Mexico leaves it on your record for 55 years, though your insurance company usually won't look back that far.

Can you get insurance with a suspended license?

You may still be able to get car insurance with a suspended license, but it will be expensive, and you’ll have to meet certain conditions.

If you don’t currently have a policy and your license is suspended, you can still apply for coverage. But you will have to get a policy from a car insurance company that accepts high risk drivers – many will not. You will also need to show that your license suspension is for a short period of time, say, 30 days compared to a year. Once your driving privileges are restored, you will have to show proof of reinstatement to your insurer.

If you have a long-term suspension, you have the option of finding a car insurance company that will allow you to buy a policy with another person named as the primary driver. You would not be listed on the policy until you get your license back.

If you are in the middle of your policy term, and your policy does not contain an exclusionary clause for driver suspensions, you likely will remain covered until the end of your term.

“Insurance companies usually don’t review your driving record in the middle of your policy term,” says Penny Gusner, consumer analyst for CarInsurance.com. “And there are only a few states that allow midterm cancellations due to a suspended license.”

However, you should still contact your insurer and read your policy’s fine-print. Increasingly, insurers are adding conditions to policies to address the problem of suspended drivers getting behind the wheel.

Typically, it will say that if you don’t report within 60 days that a driver in your household has had his or her license suspended, then that person is not covered by your policy.

Also bear in mind that car insurance companies usually check your driving record upon renewal of your policy and may simply decide you are now a high-risk driver and refuse to renew your policy when the term is up. You should be notified if that’s the case. Insurance companies are required to send you a notice informing you that your coverage is to be suspended at some future date, typically at least 30 days out.

Can insurance companies tell if your license has been suspended?

In most circumstances, the answer to this question is no, unless they pull your driving record which most insurers do at renewal time. If you have received a suspension, your insurer will usually not know until it’s time to renew your policy.

Insurance companies are not normally notified if your license is suspended. Insurers pull your driver history from the DMV and they have to pay for that record so insurers don’t necessarily pull it at every renewal period if you've had a clean record for years.

Insurance companies are usually not even aware that you need a SR-22 unless you tell them.  Your driving record with a DUI or suspended license may make them ask if you need one, but the DMV doesn't normally alert insurers, it’s your job as the one needing it.

The burden of telling the insurer about a suspended or canceled license normally is your responsibility. It is even written into some policies that if your license is suspended you must inform your insurer within a certain time period, such as 30 or 60 days.