Can Teens Drive with Passengers?

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Whether or not your teen is allowed to drive with passengers is largely contingent upon where you live. Every state has a unique graduated licensing system for novice drivers, which outlines the exact requirements for driving with passengers. Items on the list will include the driver’s age, permit status, experience level, time of operation, and the age and relation to the passenger.

Driver’s Age

In order to drive with a passenger, a novice driver must first qualify for an instruction permit. The minimum age for obtaining a training permit ranges from 14 to 16 years old, depending on which state you live in.

Experience Level

In most states, there are 3 distinct licensing levels, each based on experience level and each with different allowances for passengers.

  • Instruction Permit.
    Once a novice driver has obtained an instruction permit, there is a designated period (typically 6 to 12 months) during which he or she is only allowed to drive with a parent, legal guardian, or licensed training professional. Some states require teen drivers to complete a specific number of hours (usually between 30 and 50 hours) driving with a permit and supervising adult in the car.
  • Restricted License.
    Once a driver has earned a restricted license, there is a probationary period during which he or she can drive with passengers of a specified age, generally over 21 years old. Some states will make exceptions to this rule as long as the underage passenger is a direct family member.
  • Unrestricted License.
    Once the probationary period has concluded, a driver may carry passengers of any age. In some states, an unrestricted license may be granted without formerly holding a restricted license if the driver has already reached the age of 18.

Other Restrictions

Usually, drivers with restricted permits or licenses are prohibited from transporting passengers (other than a supervising parent or guardian) during night hours and can only carry passengers between sunrise and sunset.

Additionally, most states place heavy restrictions on anyone who is under the age of 18 with previous knocks against their driving record. Generally, this is limited to those who have either been involved in an accident or received a prior moving violation (e.g. speeding ticket, running a red light, texting and driving). Teen drivers who falls into this category likely won’t be allowed to transport passengers until their 18th birthday.

Teenage Driving with Passengers Statistics

Teen driver with other teen passengers.

Studies have shown that teens are particularly susceptible to distractions while driving, which is why every state has restrictions on the number, age, and relationship of passengers that young drivers are allowed to transport.

The following statistics on the effects of passengers on teenage drivers further prove why restrictions can be life-saving.

  • Number of Passengers.
    It has been shown that young drivers are more likely to get in an accident with one with one additional passenger in the car. That risk increases with each additional passenger.
  • Relationship.
    It has been suggested that teens tend to focus better while driving with those they are closely related to, particularly authority figures such as parents or driving instructors.
  • Age.
    It has also been shown through teenage distracted driving statistics that novice drivers tend to be more easily distracted while driving with younger passengers, such as friends or younger siblings.

Every State is Different

While most states use the same general criteria to determine whether or not young drivers are allowed to carry passengers, they all vary to some degree. States that are less densely populated and feature more open space tend to be laxer than those featuring populated metropolitan areas.

Regardless of which state you’re applying for a license in, violation of your state’s passenger restrictions will have big consequences. Just because you’re driving with a restricted permit or license doesn’t mean you’re absolved from being penalized! So, make sure you take the time to carefully research the passenger limitations and rules specific to your state.

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