The Graduated License Law and Under-18 Driving Restrictions

The United States is one of the few countries in the world that allows its citizens to obtain a driver’s license before they reach the age of majority. At the age of 14-16, you are issued a driver’s license and can move freely around the country when accompanied by responsible people. From 17, you can drive unattended, but with certain restrictions. It is crucial to follow all the established rules. Safety is of paramount importance here and for a good reason. According to a CDC study, about 110 people in the United States die daily in road accidents. According to the IIHS, out of 41,000 traffic fatalities in 2020, 2,730 were young people under 19. In addition, approximately 2,100 underage drivers and passengers were involved in or caused a fatal accident. So, for anyone who wants to get, for example, a 16 yr old driver’s license, restrictions have been introduced to help teach young drivers about traffic rules and road behavior. They include:

  • The number of passengers in the car
  • The presence of guardians in the car while driving
  • The speed of the vehicle
  • List of roads and areas where driving is prohibited
  • Purpose of the trip
  • Time of continuous driving

Moreover, each state has its own rules for beginners under the age of 18. Like a graduated driver’s license, the rights and restrictions are regulated by levels, experience, etc. So what is GDL? Can you get a driver’s license at 16, and can you get your license at 17 without a permit? CoverExplore specialists have prepared a comprehensive guide on what does graduated driver’s license mean, where they answered all of these questions and more. Discover industry professionals’new driving license laws overview and prepare for your first license.

What Is the Distinction Between a Junior Learner Permit & a Junior Driver’s License?

The Graduated License Law and Under-18 Driving Restrictions 1 Let’s get back to the main question: What age can you get a driver’s license? As mentioned above, 14-16 years old. This is the legal age to drive when you can get a learner’s license but with some restrictions. Be prepared to drive under the supervision of a parent or guardian. This is the key difference between a junior learner’s permit and a junior (intermediate) driver’s license. The latter has these and some other restrictions removed. What is an intermediate license? This driving permit is obtained at least 6 months after the first document is issued and upon reaching 16.5 years of age. With the intermediate license (junior driver’s license), there are exceptions to the rules:

  • In northern New York, the driving age is 16, and restrictions on travel time and supervisor presence are removed. At the same time, it is allowed to take one passenger under 21.
  • At night (21:00-5:00), driving is allowed only between home and school/place of work. Proof of employment or training is also required.
  • Long Island has no restrictions on driving at night, but the routes are limited to typical destinations (school, office, etc.).

Such a license is not valid in New York City itself. Therefore, even if you reach the minimum driving age and obtain all the permits, you will be fined and deprived of your license. However, if you have a guardian in the car, you can drive around the city. An extended learner’s permit removes some restrictions; however, not in all states and not under all conditions. To avoid getting into trouble, you should check the list of GDL restrictions for a particular region in advance. As a rule, restrictions are removed for daytime driving within certain areas, while at night, they remain unchanged. The same applies to driving under supervision. If there are any relaxations, they are not significant and are not perceived as renewals of permits. In addition, some states, such as New York, generally equate the initial and learner’s licenses with each other without introducing any exemptions for beginners. Moreover, it is not allowed to drive unaccompanied on some streets and neighborhoods at all. This usually applies primarily to busy roads with high traffic, multiple lanes, and complex interchanges.

What Is a Graduated Driver License?

The Graduated License Law and Under-18 Driving Restrictions 2

GDL is a graduated driver’s license program that allows minors to drive a vehicle with or without a supervisor at a set time. It is intended primarily to train beginners to expand their freedom of movement, get to school or work without hindrance, etc. Accordingly, the program lowers the minimum legal driving age and the age for a driver’s license. However, it regulates at what age you can get a driver’s license and under what conditions you can move around the city on your own. So, the question arises: how old do you have to be to get your license? That becomes possible from the age of 14. As for the transition from a junior license to an unrestricted license, it is possible only from the age of 17. Thus, the driver’s license ages are 14-18 years old, but a full-fledged license is only available from age 21. The requirements differ depending on the state. Graduated driver’s license law clearly states the age and the necessary skills, experience, and restrictions for obtaining a license. It also includes objections to a graduated driver’s license. Graduated driver license programs generally involve stages listed below:

  • Learner: supervised driving, cumulating with a driving test
  • Intermediate: limiting unsupervised driving in potentially dangerous situations
  • Full privilege: a standard driver’s license

To move between the grades, a beginner must practice and reach a certain age, although these conditions vary from state to state. For example, while Intermediate usually requires 50 hours of driving during the day and 10 hours at night, Arkansas does not have such requirements. Or, in the case of Iowa, the driving time is reduced by about 2 times. As for the transportation of passengers, only family members (even minors) are allowed in the car. In some cases, you can carry people over the age of 21. These rules depend on the region where the newcomer gains experience.

GDL License Restrictions Are Classified Into Several Types

The Graduated License Law and Under-18 Driving Restrictions 3

Getting a license is only the first step to becoming a full-fledged driver, and here’s why: driving licensing laws include driving permit ages, new driver’s license laws, and requirements. Let’s look at the following examples:

Learner – 9 monthsClass 5 Novice 1-6 monthsClass 5 Novice 2-12 months
16 years of age or 15 years of age, but only for a school course16 years of age 
Pass written testPass Class 5 road test12 months – excludes interruptions; Same period – at-fault collision, traffic conviction, and suspension free
Nine months – excludes interruptions (non-renewal, refusal, suspension)(non-renewal, refusal, suspension) 
Mandatory education – high school training (30 hours in-class, six hours in-car) or commercial training (six hours in-class, six hours in-car)  

There are driving restrictions for 17-year-olds, for example:

Class 7 Learner – 9 monthsClass 5 Novice 1-6 monthsClass 5 Novice 2-12 months
A responsible person must be presentOne passenger who is not part of the family Other passengers must be immediate family members and are limited to the number of seatbeltsNumber of passengers limited to the number of seatbelts
Pass written testPass Class 5 road test 
Between midnight and 5 a.m., passengers must be immediate family members.  
Mandatory education – high school training (30 hours in-class, six hours in-car) or commercial training (six hours in-class, six hours in-car)  

The fact of how old you have to be to get a driver’s license is quite essential. However, other requirements and restrictions imposed on beginners are of greater value for the safety of road users. Please note that you must gain a certain number of hours of driving experience for each gradation in different conditions. Most often, it is:

  • 50-100 hours in the daytime
  • 10-20 hours of night driving
  • Driving in dense traffic (busy streets of large cities)
  • Practicing actions in dangerous or stressful situations
  • Perfect knowledge of traffic rules

In addition, the frequency of re-tests of skills and knowledge of traffic rules is established. Usually, it occurs from 6 months to a year, depending on the license category and the driver’s age.

Driving in a Different State? Other State GDL Laws Can Be Found Here

Of course, there is a difference between driver’s license age by state. You can learn more about it on the relevant resource or website. The answer to your question about age, such as “Can I get my license at 17?” depends on the state. Therefore, carefully review the section that applies to your region. You will also find Michigan level 1 license rules, Michigan level 2 license rules, Alabama graduated driver’s license requirements, and more. Accordingly, this will help you better prepare for getting a license valid in any state of the United States. In short, depending on the region, there are restrictions on movement for newcomers. Here are the most common ones young drivers should be aware of:

  • The driving age for beginners varies from 16 to 18 years (in some regions, up to 21).
  • Night driving (unaccompanied) is prohibited.
  • The number of passengers under 21 is up to 1 person (excluding family members).
  • The speed limit is set for each region.
  • Insurance is mandatory in all cases.

The requirements and rules are somewhat less strict for the next levels of driver’s licenses, but they are not eliminated. So before you get behind the wheel, ensure you don’t violate state law.

Choosing a Vehicle With Teen Safety in Mind

The Graduated License Law and Under-18 Driving Restrictions 4

The Graduated Driver Licensing Program sets requirements even for the vehicle that a teenager will drive. It must be equipped with modern safety systems and, even better, an additional brake for the instructor or authorized person. The priority is for small or family cars equipped with seat belts, electronic power steering, brakes, lane-keeping systems, speed limitation, distance keeping, and automatic transmission. These include hatchbacks, station wagons, minivans, and sedans. Electric cars and hybrids are considered one of the best solutions in 2023. Such vehicles will be useful for beginners and experienced drivers who seek travel convenience and ease of driving.

Get Good Discounts on Quality Coverage for Young Drivers

The Graduated License Law and Under-18 Driving Restrictions 5

Did you know that insurance is one of the most important things a driver needs to prepare a car for use? However, its cost directly depends on the age of the driver. Moreover, the younger the driver, the higher the price, for example:

Average monthly price of the policy, USDDriver’s age

And the key factor in this cost is the risk of an accident. An inexperienced driver is considered a potential offender and culprit of an accident. Moreover, the payments made by insurance companies can even reach the cost of the car. Therefore, its insurance is more expensive than for an experienced driver. But don’t worry, CoverExplore specialists will help you with car insurance and even provide you with a discount on the policy and company services. If you want to get insurance for your vehicle and driver quickly and without problems, book a free consultation!

Frequently Asked Questions

What age can you get your driver’s license?

It depends on the state where the driver lives. The average age in the United States is 14-16 years old, but some regions may have a different minimum threshold for driving (subject to additional conditions).

What is a GDL?

GDL is a scalable driver’s license issued in adolescence and renewed after a certain period, subject to the following conditions: passing advanced training exams, having a sufficient number of driving hours, having no violations, etc.

What restrictions does a graduated driver’s license impose?

It depends on the license gradation and the policy of a particular state. Typically, new drivers are not allowed to drive without a responsible person present, have young passengers, or drive at night.

Victoria Berezhetska

Victoria Berezhetska is a Content Lead at and an expert contributor to CoverExplore. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, with extensive working experience as a PR specialist and content writer. At CoverExplore, she helps customers find the right educational material through easily digestible blog posts and buying guides backing their insurance coverage choice. Victoria covers diverse topics around digital and insurance marketing, including auto, home, health, and life insurance.

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