If you're anything like most Iowa teens, you've been counting down the days until you earn your first driver's license. However, it's important to remember that driving involves a great deal of responsibility. Before you can cruise down the road with the wind in your hair, there are several steps you must take―and plenty of rules you must follow.
Iowa's Graduated Licensing System
Iowa now has a graduated driver licensing system for teenage drivers. The system works as follows:
- At age 14, you can receive an instruction permit if you have parental permission and pass the vision and written knowledge tests. With an instruction permit, you may drive only with parental supervision.
- At 16, if you have completed the necessary classroom education and driver training, you can receive an intermediate license that allows you to drive during designated hours without parental supervision.
- At 17, if you've remained accident-free and conviction-free for 12 consecutive months, you can receive a full Iowa driver's license.
If you're involved in an accident or receive a moving violation while you have an instruction permit or an intermediate license, you will be required to attend a remedial driver improvement interview with an Iowa Department of Transportation representative and your parent or guardian to determine if additional driving restrictions will be required.
Getting Your First Driver's License
To apply for your instruction permit, intermediate license, or driver's license, you must bring proof of your identity and verification of your Social Security number to your nearest driver's license station.
While several different forms of documentation are considered acceptable, remember that photocopies or faxes are not allowed. You must bring the original documents.
Permits and licenses for teen drivers are marked with the phrase "under 18" or "under 21" to guard against underage purchases of alcohol or tobacco.
Safety Tips for Teen Drivers
While your ability to drive safely will generally improve as you gain more experience behind the wheel, the following tips will help you reduce your risk of being involved in a serious auto accident.
- Never drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These substances can impair your judgment and reduce your ability to make critical decisions while on the road.
- Don't talk on your cell phone while driving. It can be difficult for young drivers to remain focused on the road while talking with friends or family.
- Avoid driving at night whenever possible. Did you know that most traffic accidents happen between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m.? Night driving is difficult at any age, but it's especially challenging for newer drivers.
- Obey the posted speed limits. In addition to the risk of getting a ticket and raising your insurance rates, speeding also increases your odds of being involved in an accident.
- Wear your seatbelt. You never know when someone might slam into YOU. However, wearing your seatbelt will reduce your odds of death or serious injury.
Buying Auto Insurance
Having a driver's license means that you must prove your financial responsibility for any accidents you may cause while on the road. This is typically accomplished by purchasing auto insurance.
The cost of your insurance is based primarily on your driving record. However, asking for higher deductibles, driving a low-maintenance vehicle, or comparing prices with several different carriers may also help you reduce your expense.
Insurance for teenages drivers is usually fairly expensive, for the obvious reason that they are the least experienced drivers on the road and therefore more likely to make mistakes at first. However, if you're a responsible teen, you may get a break: Many insurance companies offer discounts for teen drivers who have above-average grades.