The Teenagers Guide to Getting a Driver's License

young driver on the roadSoon-to-be teen drivers may be in a rush to earn their driver’s license and hit the road. However, getting teens from student drivers to fully licensed may be longer, bumpier, and more expensive than their parents remember. There are several steps to follow that vary from state to state, so doing proper research is critical to getting your teen on the road.

3 Steps Towards Getting a Driver’s License

1. Know Your State’s Requirements

The requirements needed by teen drivers to get their license vary from state to state. By visiting your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) location or their website, you should be able to get the details you need to plan a timeline for helping your teen acquire a driver’s license – or if you are a teen – to work with your parents to make sure you’re all on the same page. It’s also important to learn about the insurance requirements – more on that below.

2. Understanding the GDL Program

Today all 50 states and Washington, D.C., have implemented what’s known as a Graduated Driver License (GDL) program. The name might be confusing, but it’s a type of licensing program aimed at teen drivers and new drivers. This multi-step path toward driving privileges comes with many milestones that need to be met before the next can be tackled. Instead of allowing young drivers to get a learners permit and then be granted a full license (typically within the course of a single year), the graduated driver’s license program requires teen drivers to gain more experience over a period of time and limits their driving rights until they have had time to learn the skills necessary to become a good driver and to drive safely on their own.

GDL Program Requirements

Depending on where you live, a GDL program can begin from age 14 to 16 and typically includes three periods:

  • Learning Stage (supervised driving only)
  • Intermediate Stage (includes state-specific times when unsupervised driving is allowed)
  • Unrestricted stage.

Again, it’s very important to review the specific requirements of your state’s program as these can vary.

An example of the rules for a graduated driver’s license program might look something like this:

  • At 15 years and 6 months of age, a state resident may qualify for a learner’s permit
  • At 16 years and 6 months of age, a state resident may qualify for a restricted license
  • The driver must acquire 45 hours of supervised driving time, 15 of which must be at night
  • Driving is prohibited between the hours of 10pm and 5am (for example)

To see the rules for restricted licenses and the graduated driver’s license program for your state, check out this handy chart on the IIHS official website.

How Effective are GDL Programs?

GDL Programs are fairly new, but they’ve been put in place in response to high rates of fatal car crashes involving teen drivers that have been documented since the 1980’s. While many safe driving programs have made a positive impact on lowering the rate of accidents involving teen drivers, research showed that there were several common issues at the core of these accidents—the most common of which was inexperience, particularly in terms of specific driving situations such as driving at night or in bad weather. The program has shown great promise for reducing the number of teen driving fatalities simply by controlling when new drivers can be on the roads.

One study showed that prohibiting nighttime driving reduced the number of teen driver accidents during those hours by 10% and reduced the chances of a teen driver being in alcohol-involved crash by 13%. The study also showed that laws restricting the number of teen passengers in a vehicle with a teen driver reduced car accidents involving young drivers by 9%.

To learn more about the effects of graduated driver’s license laws, visit the National Institutes of Health website.

3. Understanding Car Insurance for Teens

Before that first solo trip in mom’s station wagon or a teen’s new car, he or she will need the minimum auto insurance required in their state to legally drive. While teen car insurance tends to be pricier due to the drivers’ relative inexperience and high accident rates among younger drivers, there are several ways to save on the premiums.

Which Companies Have Teen Driver Discounts?

The most obvious way to save money is to shop around and compare quotes from multiple insurance companies. Additionally, teen drivers may receive discounts for academic achievement, taking certain driver safety courses, operating a car with specific safety features, and by maintaining a clean driving record. Some insurance providers even allow teens to drive with a telematics device that monitors driving behavior to see if they qualify for additional safe driving discounts.

Compare Teen Car Insurance Quotes From Multiple Companies

New Driver Safety Tips

To keep saving on car insurance, you want to make sure your teen understands how their driving behavior affects their rates. In a time where we have technology everywhere, consider using a teen driver safety app to help them stay on track. Another helpful tip is to show them how to take care of their car. Having a car that has proper routine maintenance will generally outlast a car that does not. Make sure you show them how to access spare tires, jacks, etc. in case of emergency and that they know how to adjust mirrors, seats, and steering wheel so they are at appropriate positions for the driver.

Finding the Best Rates for Teen Auto Insurance

Now that your teen is on their way to getting fully licensed, how can you continue to save money on car insurance as their driving experience improves? Compare car insurance quotes! As your teen becomes a better driver, you could be saving money on your car insurance coverage as their riskiness to insurers will hopefully decrease.

You probably won’t see an immediate premium reduction within the first couple of months of your teen driving. Since most policies are renewed on a 6-month or 12-month basis, right before the renewal would be a good time to check if you can save some more money with a different insurer or if you have the best deal where you are at.

Remember, if you find a better deal before your renewal date, you can cancel your policy before it ends and receive a pro-rated refund. If you happen to still not save money, keep reinforcing the safe driving tips to your teen and ensuring you are taking advantage of all available discounts.

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