A driver's license is a sort of rite of passage into independence and adulthood for young people. Many states set the magic line for driver's licenses at 16 years old. If you live in a state that gives 16-year-olds the right to drive, you're in luck. You simply have to follow the steps required, including the typical written knowledge test and driving skills test, in addition to a few additional steps for teens.
What Age Can a Teen Drive Alone?
Most states require teens to drive with an adult as long as they hold a permit. But a few allow young drivers to pilot the car alone at age 17 years old. Additional requirements may apply, like a driver's education course in high school or college.
Not all states allow 16-year-olds to apply for a driver's license, but many do. If your state in one of them, your state's Department of Motor Vehicles will provide information about exactly what hoops you must jump through to win the prize. Expect more than a few limitations and restrictions, but they vary among states so you'll want to check.
Many states allow 16-year-olds to apply for a license only after they show proof of having taken and passed a driver's training or driver's education class, or both. You will probably have to get a driving permit first. It is an option in some states for teens, but driving for a set amount of time is a requirement in others, for example, 120 to 180 days in Connecticut and 40 hours, including six hours of night logged, supervised driving, in Georgia.
Each state's requirements differ. In Indiana, for example, if you are under 21, your license is probationary. You can apply for it if you have successfully completed an approved driver education program and you are at least 16 years and 90 days old. Without driver education, you must be at least 16 years and 270 days. You'll need to get a permit and drive with it for 180 days (accompanied always by an adult, licensed driver) before taking the driving test. Drivers under 18 usually need a parent or other adult to assume financial liability in case of an accident.
In New York, for example, all new applicants for a driver's license must first get a permit, then drive with a licensed adult in the car. You can get one called a "junior learner permit" at 16, but will require a log of supervised driving signed off by the adult in order to move on to the driving test. All new applicants must take a pre-licensing class to prepare to take the driving test. At 17, a New York driver who has driven with a permit can apply for a senior driver's license, allowing solo driving. You can do this only if you complete a high school or college driver education course.
Tests Required for Getting a Driver's License
A teen needs to take the same tests as an adult for getting a driver's license. These include a knowledge test, a driving skills test and a vision test.
Read More: How to Get a Driver's License in Texas
Revocation of a Driver's License
Break the driving laws as a teen, and you are likely to lose your driving privileges very quickly. In every state, drivers who rack up moving violations, drive under the influence or drive without insurance risk being sidelined. But even stricter standards may apply to new drivers.
In New York, for example, when you first get your license, you have a six-month probationary period. During this time, the state will suspend your license for 60 days if you are convicted of a number of serious moving violations, like speeding, texting while driving, reckless driving or following too closely. The six-month probation begins again when the 60-day period is over.
If your state allows you to drive at 16 years old, you'll have to take the written test and skills test like everyone else, but also complete additional requirements that your state mandates for teens which may include driver's education classes, practice driving with a permit and a period of restricted driving.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.