Teen Driver Laws For 16 Year Olds

Teenage drivers remain at serious risk for car crashes and fatalities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), car crashes are the leading cause of death among U.S. teens. This has caused a revamp of teen driver laws for 16 year olds.

A total of 2,820 teenagers ages 13-19 died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016.That equates to seven to eleven teen deaths per day. Also, over 200,000 teens were treated for injuries suffered in car crashes that year. Before we dive into the laws, make sure to check out Focus by TeenDrive to start changing these statistics for your child today!

Why are Teen Drivers at Higher Accident Risk?

Teen drivers are at high risk, more than any other driver age group. This is especially true for 16 year old drivers. Young drivers overestimate their abilities behind the wheel, as well as the dangers on the road.

Drivers under the age of 18 are also at higher risk for distracted driving hazards. These hazards include cell phone use while driving, texting while driving, and having teen passengers in the vehicle.

Parents are taking a more aggressive approach to teen driving risks. Communication with teens and safe driving contracts are now the norm in many households across America.

However, parents are not the only ones taking a hard stance on safe teen driving. New state laws are now in place to ensure teens are learning how to drive safely, before and after 16 years old.

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Laws

Graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws are in place to reduce teen driving crashes, injuries, and fatalities. GDL laws allow teens to build up driving experience under low-risk conditions.

This gives teens time to develop those safe driving skills older drivers have. Under GDL laws, teens are limited to driving during evening hours, driving with teen passengers, and the laws include plenty of supervised practice time.

In fact, GDL laws have decreased crashes by up to 30 percent on average. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have three-stage GDL laws in place.

These teen driving laws are decided and passed by each state, so there are slight differences from one state to another. However, the states with more stringent driving laws in place for teens see the least amount of teen deaths, as opposed to more lenient states.

For instance, in some states teens wait longer to obtain learner permits and full-privilege licenses. Let’s take a look at the common GDL stages, and a few common requirements teen drivers need to meet.

Learner Stage

The Graduated Driver Licensing Learner Stage is the first stage teens must complete. The issued license is often called a Learner’s Permit. Most states require teens to be 15 years old to be eligible for the Learner Stage. However, some states like Arizona allow 14 year olds to be eligible.

In the learner stage, teens need to hold the learner’s permit for at least six months. One major requirement for teens in the learning stage is to complete a minimum amount of supervised driving time, ranging between 30 hours to 50 hours.

Intermediate Stage

The GDL laws Intermediate Stage is eligible to all teen drivers at least 16 years old and who have met all learner stage requirements. This allows teens to drive unsupervised, but with restrictions.

There are some variations in the intermediate stage GDL laws depending on the state. For example, the state of New York requires teens to be 16 years and 6 months old to become an intermediate driver.

Now there are a variety of intermediate stage laws in place when it comes to unsupervised teen driving.

These unsupervised teen driving laws include:

  • No driving between 12am to 6am (Alabama)
  • No driving between 11pm and 6am (Florida)
  • No driving from sunset to sunrise (Idaho)
  • No more than one passenger for first 12 months (Ohio)
  • No more than one passenger (Oklahoma)

Some states, however, have no passenger limits for teen drivers during the intermediate stage, such as North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, and Florida.

As long as a 16 year old driver does not violate any of the intermediate stage GDL laws in their state, they are eligible to advance to the final GDL stage.

Unrestricted Stage

The Unrestricted Stage may be a bit misleading for teen drivers. Just because it is called the unrestricted stage doesn’t mean they are free to drive without certain teen driver laws in place.

The wording the GDL laws have in place for the unrestricted stage is “when restrictions may be lifted”. Emphasis on “may be lifted”. Many states still have restrictions in place for teen drivers under the age of 18.

For instance, nighttime restrictions can still be implemented for six months in the unrestricted stage, or until age 18. Some states, like Arkansas and Connecticut for example keep nighttime driving restrictions in effect until the teen driver turns 18, no exceptions.

How Safe are Driver Laws for 16 Year Olds in Your State?

The GDL laws are a powerful step, letting teen drivers build up knowledge in a guided, safe way. Here’s a quick breakdown of the best GDL laws by state:

How much safer are these laws for 16 year olds? You can utilize the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) GDL Crash Reduction Calculator to find out.

It is important to not rely on these laws alone for your 16 year old driver. Open up safe driving discussions in the home and make them continuous. Keep your teen driver safe and give them the knowledge and practice they need to stay clear of common hazards.

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