Teen Driving: Graduating to Full Licensure


One of the biggest risk factors contributing to the prevalence of car accidents is inexperience. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), teen drivers age 16 to 19 are four times more likely to be involved in car accidents than drivers age 20 or older. IIHS numbers indicate that the accident risk is highest for younger teen drivers, the accident risk for 16-year-olds is nearly double that of 18 and 19-year-olds.

To allow new teen-drivers to gain necessary experience, states such as Minnesota have begun using graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems. GDLs allow young drivers to gain experience under the supervision of experienced drivers while obtaining more driving privileges as they gain experience.

Graduated Licensing

Minnesota uses a graduated driver licensing system to license teen drivers. The GDL is divided into three steps: instruction or learner’s permit, provisional license, and full license. Each step has its own requirements and restrictions.

Instruction or learners permit – Teens must be 15-years-old, currently enrolled in driver’s education, and pass eye and written exams to receive a learner’s permit. There are no restrictions on passengers, but a parent or guardian or licensed driver 21-years-old or older must be in the passenger seat at all times that teens with learner’s permits are driving.

Provisional license – Teens must be 16-years-old, have held a learner’s permit for at least six months, complete driver’s education and pass a road test before receiving a provisional license. Holders of a provisional license are not allowed to use a cellphone to talk or text while driving.

Unless accompanied by a parent or guardian or licensed driver at least 21-years-old, holders of a provisional license are only allowed one passenger under age 20 for the first six months of licensure. After six months, teens are allowed to carry up to three passengers under the age of 20. However, there is an exception to these restrictions; they do not apply to family members.

There are also restrictions on nighttime driving for the first six months of provisional licensure. Teens are not allowed to drive between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m., unless they are driving between home and work or school, driving as part of a job, or are accompanied by a licensed driver at least 25-years-old.

Full license – Teens must be at least-17-years old to receive full licensure. If age 17, the teen must have held a provisional license for the preceding 12 months, and if age 18, held a learner’s permit for six months. With a full license, drivers can talk on a cellphone, but are not allowed to text message.