Learner’s permit vs. driver’s license
Learner’s permits and driver’s licenses allow drivers to drive on public roads. However, a learner’s permit usually has restrictions, while a driver’s license doesn’t, except for traffic rules.
A learner’s permit allows new drivers to get comfortable with the road and practice traffic safety under some guidance. A permit usually has driving restraints, including a driving curfew and passenger limits as specified by your state. You may need to take a written exam and pass a vision exam to obtain your learner’s permit.
After getting your learner’s permit, you may have to take state-sponsored driver’s education courses and drive a certain amount of time under supervision before you can take a driving exam to get your driver’s license. Even with a learner’s permit, you generally can’t drive a car on public roads without another fully licensed driver with you.
Once you have a driver’s license, you can drive a car on public roads by yourself, with some restrictions that vary among states. You can upgrade to an unrestricted driver’s license by holding your intermediate license for a specific time, reaching a specific age, or both.
Keep Reading: Do I Have to Add My Teenager to My Car Insurance?
What is a graduated driver’s licensing program?
A graduated driver’s licensing (GDL) program is a series of restrictions for young and newly licensed drivers.
While drivers ages 15 to 20 only accounted for 5.1% of all licensed drivers, 8.5% of all fatal car crashes in 2020 involved these drivers. Therefore, this requirement is necessary for states to promote safety on the road among new young drivers.
All drivers go through three stages of the GDL system. In the first stage, the driver obtains a learner’s permit. They can then trade that in for an intermediate license (also known as a provisional license) and, finally, a full driver’s license.
You typically have to be a minimum of 14 years old to apply for a learner’s permit, 16 for a provisional license, and at least 17 or have held your driver’s license for several months before it is unrestricted.
Graduated drivers license programs were first implemented in the 1990s. By 2011, nighttime driving restrictions for teens had cut fatal nighttime crashes among 16- and 17-year-old drivers by 10%, researchers concluded.
State driving restrictions
Many states established driving limitations to curb traffic fatalities and collisions, particularly for young drivers with less road experience. Drivers with permits have more restrictions than those with a full license, though limitations vary by state.
One driving restriction is a nighttime curfew, meaning new drivers can’t drive during certain night hours. Passenger restrictions are also in place, and many states will limit teens from carrying more than one passenger in their car below a specific age, usually younger than 18 or 21.