New drivers are often eager to take advantage of the newfound independence driving can offer, but getting a license is only the first step. As an experienced driver can tell you, it takes months and years to develop the instincts, reflexes, and judgment to become a good driver.
For this reason, states have laws regarding new drivers and the passengers they're allowed to carry. The specifics vary from state to state, but the underlying intention is the same: to limit risk while new drivers develop their skills behind the wheel.
Here's a look at a few examples of state laws about new teen drivers and their passengers:
Teens may get an instruction permit at age 15 1/2; a driver's education course is required before obtaining a license. According to the Nevada DMV, "Young drivers may not transport any passenger under the age of 18, except for immediate family members, for the first six months after the license was issued."
When you have your permit, you aren't allowed to drive at all unless there's an adult with a California driver's license who is at least 25 years old in the car with you. You have to hold your permit for six months and take a driver's ed course before you can take your driving test. For the first year, an adult with a license over age 25 has to be in the car with you if you carry any passengers under the age of 20.
In New York, those with a learner permit must be accompanied by a licensed driver over age 21. With a junior license, you are allowed to carry one passenger under the age of 21. (You can also drive with your immediate family members in the car, no matter their ages.)
After you obtain your provisional license, you can only have one non-family member as a passenger in your car at any given time.
When you turn 15, you can apply for your learner's license; with that in hand, you can drive as long as there's a licensed driver over the age of 21 in the front passenger seat. With your intermediate license, you must still have that 21-year-old licensed driver in the car with you during certain hours of the day. There are no restrictions on carrying passengers.
Young Minnesota drivers must also be accompanied by a licensed driver age 21 or older when they have their instruction permits. For a provisional license, you must complete driver's education and submit a log of supervised driving hours. At first, you can only have one passenger under the age of 20; this increases to no more than three passengers under age 20 during the second six months of having the license.
During the first year with your license, you cannot drive between certain hours unless a parent or guardian is with you in the car (or if you are driving to certain documented school, work, or religious events). Unless your parent or guardian is there, you're only allowed to carry one passenger who's not a family member.
In North Dakota, 14- and 15-year-old drivers must complete a driver's education course. First-time drivers of all ages must have a supervising driver in the car while operating on a learner's permit. There are no restrictions on passengers.
As you can see, laws governing first-time drivers can vary quite a bit from state to state. When you study the regulations as outlined by your state's DMV, carefully check to see how many passengers you're allowed to carry while on a learner's permit or a provisional license, and notice if there are age restrictions on those passengers. Breaking laws as a provisional driver, even if you didn't mean to or weren't aware, can delay your ability to get a full license.