Although you'll probably never hear them admit it, teens and driving don't mix well. Teens have the highest crash risk per mile of any age group, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have implemented some type of graduated driver licensing or provisional laws in response.

Graduated Driver Licensing

GDL laws are designed to literally graduate young drivers from absolute novices - the learner's permit stage - to an intermediate stage, and then finally to a full privilege license. Teens learn and improve at driving as they go along, and certain restrictions and rules are lifted when they successfully reach the full privilege state.

Specific laws are geared solely to your teen's age group and how long he has been driving, and he needs to know about them.

Curfew Laws

Only one state - Vermont - does not restrict the hours during which teens can drive. Everywhere else, they must get off the road by a certain time. The law is somewhat open to interpretation in Idaho, which prohibits teens from driving from sunset to sunrise, but in most states, the rules are specific. Teens must hand over the keys by midnight in Colorado, Kentucky, Minnesota, and several other states. Alaska, Rhode Island, Washington, and New Hampshire are more generous - teens can drive in these states until 1 a.m. New York and North Carolina are among the most restrictive states with 9 p.m. curfews. North Dakota's curfew is 9 p.m., too, except in the summer months if the sun hasn't quite set yet.

Passenger Restrictions

Forty-six states and the District of Columbia place limits on how many passengers a teen can have in a vehicle, although family members often don't count. Some, including Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Oregon, Washington, West Virginia, and Connecticut, don't allow any passengers at all for the first six months a driver is in the intermediate license stage. Maine increases this to nine months. Maryland cuts it to five, and it's just three months in Vermont.

In most states, the passenger limit is one. North Dakota, South Dakota, Mississippi and Florida have no restrictions.

Cellphone Laws

Some of the most complex driving laws across state lines pertain to cellphone use. Some states have handheld bans, and almost all states prohibit texting regardless of the driver's age or experience behind the wheel. In 38 states and the District of Columbia, the existing laws are even stricter for novice drivers. Even states that do not prohibit handheld devices for older drivers, like Colorado, disallow them for teenagers under 18. Your safest course is to make sure your teen knows to place his cellphone out of reach when he puts the key in the ignition.

Drinking and Driving

It's illegal to drink too much and drive in any state regardless of how old you are, but every state has zero tolerance laws for anyone under age 21. It is illegal for teens to drink any alcohol at all before getting behind the wheel.

A great deal of variation exists across states when it comes to teens and driving. The Governors Highway Safety Association offers a comprehensive breakdown of teen driving laws by state so both you and your teen know the rules where you live.


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