Exploring the Effects of Under 18 Driving Restrictions on Teen Driving Habits and Safety

Exploring the Effects of Under 18 Driving Restrictions on Teen Driving Habits and Safety

In 2021, over 42,939 people got in fatal traffic accidents in the United States, with 3,058 being teenagers. Approximately 78% of the fatal incidents among teenagers involved passengers of motor vehicles. Around 1,326 young drivers lost their lives in the same period.


Source: (IIHS)

The reasons for such a high mortality rate include the most common factors: 

  • Lack of sufficient experience and skills.
  • Disregard for safety rules.
  • External factors such as violations by other road users.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol.
  • Ignoring the restrictions set by GDL (Graduated Driver Licensing) and intermediate licenses.

The GDL license is meant to prepare young drivers for adult life, allowing them to learn how to operate a vehicle and follow traffic regulations.

Can you get a driver's license at 16? Yes, but despite that, there are driving restrictions for 16- and 17-year-olds to mitigate potential risks associated with injuries or even fatalities. Not to mention the simple violations or property damage that can occur.  

Experts from American REIA studied "How does a 16-year-old driver's license and its restrictions affect the formation of habits and safety principles in an individual?" In the material, you will find answers to the following questions:

  • What is GDL?
  • What age can you get your license?
  • What are the different types of driver's license ages by state?
  • What are the nuances of driving licensing laws?

What is GDL?

In the United States, a multi-tiered driver's license system allows individuals to operate vehicles from the age of 14 (in exceptional cases). The Graduated Driver License (GDL) is designed to facilitate beginners' early and gradual integration into the dense traffic flow within the country.

  • The program aims to educate future drivers early on basic traffic regulations and key principles of safe vehicle operation.

However, it is accompanied by significant restrictions, which can have unpleasant consequences for the driver and the responsible parties, such as parents, guardians, instructors, and others.

What are the restrictions of GDL?

To ensure the safety of road users and minimize risks for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians, GDL imposes some limitations. This primarily concerns compliance with traffic regulations and requirements for novice drivers.

  • The legal driving age varies from 14 to 18 years, with certain nuances. For example, additional 6 months of waiting (and training), mandatory supervision, prohibition of having underage passengers in the vehicle, and so on.

Each state has its own set of requirements for novice drivers. You can find more detailed information on a specialized resource.

What is the minimum age to get a license?

Despite the apparent specifications of GDL, the question of how old you have to be to get your license concerns almost everyone, and the answer is multi-tiered.

  • The legal age to drive ranges from 14 to 18 years (in some cases, a full license is only available from the age of 25).

Sometimes there may be confusion regarding whether you have to wait 6 months to get your license if you're 18. However, this varies depending on the state. For instance, in New York, such a requirement is not necessary, but it may be applicable in other states.

Analyzing the Impact of GDL on the Formation of Driver Habits and Skills

At what age can you get your permit? The answer to this question determines the level of risk of creating accidents. According to Rosa P, the risk decreases proportionally. For example, can you get your license at 16? Yes, but it will take 24 to 36 months before a novice's driving risk becomes minimal.

Similarly, "Can you get your license at 17 without a permit?" The leveling of potential issues will take about 13-24 months. From 18, the risk of driving continues for a minimum period of 7 to 12 months.

Thus, we see a direct correlation with age: the older the driver, the greater their responsibility.

Responsibility towards oneself

Safe driving is primarily about protecting one's own health and life. GDL allows beginners to gain experience under the supervision of experts, learn the basics of careful driving, and learn how to react in stressful situations, among other things.

It's not so important at what age you get your driver's license but how you learn to adhere to road safety rules. 

Responsibility for the health and life of passengers

GDL strictly limits the number of passengers (especially minors) for a reason. This significantly reduces road injuries and fatalities in accidents involving novice drivers.

This teaches us that everyone nearby is also at risk. Regardless of the age at which you can get your license, the main thing is always to prioritize passenger safety.

Responsibility for the safety of other road users

All driving permit ages do not eliminate the risks associated with the behavior of other road users. GDL restricts novice drivers from navigating dense traffic or high-speed highways.

This is necessary to teach beginners to maintain distance and respond sensibly to stressful (or potentially dangerous) situations.

Responsibility for property (vehicles, road signs, etc.)

Regardless of how old you have to be to get a driver's license, you are always responsible for the vehicle's condition. Accidents, risky driving, and improper vehicle treatment often lead to problems.

While GDL may not fully control this aspect (aside from insurance), it teaches the importance of carefully treating vehicles and surrounding objects.

Effectiveness of Restrictions: Minimizing Risks for Drivers and Pedestrians

Restrictions outlined in driving licensing laws are developed by experts, taking into account thousands of recorded fatal and traumatic incidents by US government agencies. They are mandatory and have no exceptions.

These restrictions include:

  • Speed limit (set regionally).
  • Minimum age (from 14 years old).
  • Number of passengers (and their age).
  • Routes for novice drivers (within cities and outside urban areas).
  • Cases when a learner can drive without supervision.
  • Nighttime driving hours (no specific daytime limits).

Let's take a closer look at each of these:

Age for obtaining a driver's license

What is the legal driving age? It ranges from 14 to 18 years old for GDL. What is an intermediate license? It is an expanded license available from 17 years old (depending on state rules), which removes certain restrictions. 

Number of passengers (and their age)

At what age do you get your permit to transport passengers without limitations? It is allowed from the age of 18 but only after obtaining a full license.

For GDL, standard rules apply, prohibiting more than one underage passenger (except for immediate family members) during the journey.

Driving hours and routes

Each state sets restrictions individually, considering road congestion, traffic density, and other factors. Driving without supervision during nighttime hours is prohibited.

How to Provide Additional Protection for Young Drivers?

Even if the beginner has reached the legal driving age, their guardians should ensure the driver's safety. This can be done in several ways:

  • Obtain an insurance policy (for the individual and the vehicle).
  • Accompany the driver on trips (especially during peak hours or significant distances).
  • Enroll the novice in additional courses (such as extreme driving).

While these actions won't eliminate all risks, they can help reduce or mitigate the most unpleasant consequences.


For all driver's license ages, GDL requires obtaining insurance coverage for the novice driver, their guardians, and the vehicle. It is necessary primarily to compensate for potential damages caused by the beginner (or by other road users to them).

To learn how to do it correctly, take advantage of expert auto insurance tips from American REIA.


Regardless of the age at which the novice starts driving, they need assistance and guidance from experienced drivers. If you have enough driving experience, accompany and instruct the newbie. Pay particular attention to stressful situations, traffic rules, maintaining distance, speed, and more.

Driver's courses

Experience comes not only with time spent driving but also with its intensity. If you don't have sufficient skills (or time) for independent driver education, enroll the novice in specialized courses. This way, they will gain ample practice, further reducing the risks of them causing accidents on the road while driving your family vehicle.


GDL provides the opportunity for minors to operate vehicles with certain restrictions. However, even with this license, they (as well as their guardians) are not exempt from responsibility for accidents or violations.

  • It is advisable to ensure proper insurance coverage to provide additional protection for the beginner driver and mitigate some financial risks associated with potential problems.

It is also important to continuously update knowledge of traffic regulations, maintain the vehicle's condition, and ensure compliance with GDL requirements by the driver.

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