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Should the minimum driving age be raised?

Car accidents jump nearly 620% for 16-year-old drivers, despite practice under a learner’s permit.

Teen drivers have a reputation for getting in accidents, leading many to question the best driving age and licensing requirements. To shed light on that question, we analyze car accident data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatality and Injury Reporting System.

The result? Car accidents rise sharply across states when drivers get their restricted or full licenses, typically at age 16. That increase levels out around age 19.

Compare state licensing requirements and accident statistics for teen drivers to get an idea of the best path to obtaining a full driver’s license.

How a teen’s driving age affects car accidents

Many states allow drivers to get their learner’s permit at age 15 and a restricted or full driver’s license at age 16. Note that nonfatal accident numbers from the NHTSA are estimates.

Across the US, 16-year-old drivers have the steepest increase in accidents from the previous age, based on 10 years of NHTSA data. Drivers at this age experience 619% more car accidents than 15-year-old drivers under a learner’s permit.

By comparison, 19-year-old drivers get in 0.2% more car accidents than 18-year-old drivers. These numbers show that accident rates increase significantly from age 15 to 18 but are negligible for slightly older drivers.

How teen driving age affects car accidents, 2010 to 2019

AgeTeen drivers in injury-only accidentsTeen drivers in property damage accidentsTeen drivers in fatal accidentsTotal% increase of accidents from previous age
1421,28636,25226757,805
1569,860158,530829229,219297%
16430,5861,212,9503,9281,647,464619%
17676,2321,751,4196,4912,434,14248%
18861,5312,187,6399,5623,058,73226%
19888,7192,166,07710,7983,065,5940.20%
20879,7192,201,78911,0193,092,5270.90%
Total3,827,9339,714,65642,89413,585,483

Minimum driving ages and graduated licensing laws by state

How does your state’s graduated licensing laws compare to other states — strict or lenient? Search for your state’s graduated licensing laws. Or filter by minimum driving age to see how they compare to fatal crash rates for teen drivers.

We gathered this information from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Federal Highway Administration.

StateMin. learner’s permit ageHours of supervised drivingMin. restricted license ageNighttime restrictionsMin. full license ageFatal crash rate per 10K teen drivers
Alabama1550 hours

0 hours with driver education

16Midnight – 6 a.m.174.51
Alaska1430 hours during day

10 hours at night or in inclement weather

161 a.m. – 5 a.m.16.53.42
Arizona1620 hours during day

10 hours at night

0 hours with driver education

16Midnight – 5 a.m.

Enforced as secondary violation

16.53.59
Arkansas140 hours1611 p.m. – 4 a.m.185.29
California1640 hours during day

10 hours at night

1611 p.m. – 5 a.m.

Enforced as secondary violation

172.87
Colorado1540 hours during day

10 hours at night

16Midnight – 5 a.m.

Enforced as secondary violation

173.86
Connecticut1640 hours1611 p.m. – 5 a.m.182.58
Delaware1640 hours during day

10 hours at night

1710 p.m. – 6 a.m.173.16
Florida1540 hours during day

10 hours at night

1616-year-olds: 11 p.m. – 6 a.m.

17-year-olds: 1 a.m. – 5 a.m.

1832.12
Georgia1534 hours during day

6 hours at night

16Midnight – 5 a.m.

Enforced as secondary violation

184.11
Hawaii15.540 hours during day

10 hours at night

1611 p.m. – 5 a.m.172.5
Idaho14.540 hours during day

10 hours at night

15Sunset to sunrise162.57
Illinois1540 hours during day

10 hours at night

16Sunday – Thursday: 10 p.m. – 6 a.m.

Friday – Saturday: 11 p.m. – 6 a.m.

182.24
Indiana1540 hours during day

10 hours at night

16.25 hoursFirst six months: 10 p.m. – 5 a.m.

Otherwise, Sunday – Friday: 11 p.m. – 5 a.m.

Saturday – Sunday: 1 a.m. – 5 a.m.

184
Iowa1418 hours during day

2 hours at night

1612:30 a.m. – 5 a.m.172.04
Kansas1425 hours with learner’s permit

Another 25 hours before age 16

10 of those hours must be at night

169 p.m. – 5 a.m.16.53.27
Kentucky1650 hours during day

10 hours at night

16.5 hoursMidnight – 6 a.m.176.49
Louisiana1535 hours during day

15 hours at night

1611 p.m. – 5 a.m.174.01
Maine1560 hours during day

10 hours at night

16Midnight – 5 a.m.16.751.43
Maryland15.7550 hours during day

10 hours at night

16.5Midnight – 5 a.m.182.77
Massachusetts1640 hours16.512:30 a.m. – 5 a.m.

Specific hours are enforced as a secondary violation

181.26
Michigan14.7540 hours during day

10 hours at night

1610 p.m. – 5 a.m.172.52
Minnesota1525 hours during day

15 hours at night

16Midnight – 5 a.m.16.52.2
Mississippi150 hours16Sunday – Thursday: 10 p.m. – 6 a.m.

Friday – Saturday: 11:30 p.m. – 6 a.m.

16.55.78
Missouri1530 hours during day

10 hours at night

161 a.m. – 5 a.m.17.94.41
Montana14.540 hours during day

10 hours at night

1511 p.m. – 5 a.m.166.74
Nebraska1540 hours during day

10 hours at night

16Midnight – 6 a.m.

Enforced as secondary violation

173.38
Nevada15.540 hours during day

10 hours at night

0 hours with defensive driving course

1610 p.m. – 5 a.m.

Enforced as secondary violation

184.11
New Hampshire15.530 hours during day

10 hours at night

161 a.m. – 4 a.m.181.81
New Jersey160 hours1711 p.m. – 5 a.m.181.76
New Mexico1540 hours during day

10 hours at night

15.5Midnight – 5 a.m.16.57.55
New York1635 hours during day

15 hours at night

16.59 p.m. – 5 a.m.

NYC: unsupervised driving not allowed

Long Island: limited unsupervised hours during day

17 with classes

18 without classes

1.84
North Carolina15Learner’s permit:
50 hours during day
10 hours at night

Restricted license:
6 hours during day
6 hours at night

169 p.m. – 5 a.m.16.55.21
North Dakota1450 hours if under age 16

0 hours if 16 years or older

169 p.m. – 5 a.m.

Sunset – 5 a.m. if the sun sets later than 9 p.m.

163.16
Ohio15.540 hours during day

10 hours at night

16First 12 months: midnight – 6 a.m.

Second 12 months: 1 a.m. – 5 a.m.

182.79
Oklahoma15.540 hours during day

10 hours at night

1610 p.m. – 5 a.m.16.54.25
Oregon1550 hours with driver education

100 hours without classes

16Midnight – 5 a.m.175.31
Pennsylvania1650 hours during day

10 hours at night

5 hours in inclement weather, day or night

16.511 p.m. – 5 a.m.17 with classes

18 without classes

3.07
Rhode Island1640 hours during day

10 hours at night

16.51 a.m. – 5 a.m.17.50.79
South Carolina1530 hours during day

10 hours at night

15.56 p.m. – 6 a.m. EST

8 p.m. – 6 a.m. EDT

16.53.39
South Dakota1430 hours during day

10 hours at night

10 hours in inclement weather, day or night

14.5 with driver education

14.75 without classes

10 p.m. – 6 a.m.163.91
Tennessee1540 hours during day

10 hours at night

1611 p.m. – 6 a.m.174.51
Texas1520 hours during day

10 hours at night

16Midnight – 5 a.m.

Enforced as secondary violation

184.58
Utah1530 hours during day

10 hours at night

16Midnight – 5 a.m.172.04
Vermont1530 hours during day

10 hours at night

16none16.51.68
Virginia15.530 hours during day

15 hours at night

16.25Midnight – 4 a.m.

Enforced as secondary violation

182.59
Washington1540 hours during day

10 hours at night

161 a.m. – 5 a.m.

Enforced as secondary violation

171.65
West Virginia1540 hours during day

10 hours at night

0 hours with driver education

1610 p.m. – 5 a.m.173.97
Wisconsin1540 hours during day

10 hours at night

16Midnight – 5 a.m.16.753.62
Wyoming1540 hours during day

10 hours at night

1611 p.m. – 5 a.m.16.54.83

How minimum learner’s permit age affects teen car crashes

The average fatal crash rate across states with a learners permit of 14 to 14.75 years old is 3.66 per 10k drivers. That’s higher than all states that set a higher limit for a learners permit.

States that allow a learners permit of 15 to 15.75 years old see an average fatal crash rate of 3.65 per 10k drivers. That’s less than the average for states that offer younger drivers a learners permit but more than states that set this limit at 16.

States with a learner’s permit age of 16 see the lowest number of fatal crashes with 1.03 fewer fatal crashes per 10,000 drivers than those with a lower minimum age.

Compare states’ minimum learning driver ages to understand how they affect fatal crashes.

Age 14-14.75

States with min. learner’s permit age of 14-14.75Fatal crashes w/ teen drivers, 2010-2019Fatal crash rate per 10K teen drivers
Alaska833.42
Arkansas5975.29
Idaho2982.57
Iowa4512.04
Kansas5673.27
Michigan1,2682.52
Montana2506.74
North Dakota1583.16
South Dakota1513.91
Average424.83.66

Age 15-15.75

States with min. learner’s permit age of 15-15.75Fatal crashes w/ teen drivers, 2010-2019Fatal crash rate per 10K teen drivers
Alabama1,1934.51
Arizona9613.59
California3,6172.87
Colorado6753.86
Florida3,1785.05
Georgia1,6224.11
Hawaii1022.50
Illinois1,2192.24
Indiana1,0504.00
Louisiana8544.01
Maine1681.43
Maryland4852.77
Minnesota4752.20
Mississippi7985.78
Missouri1,1174.41
Nebraska3183.38
Nevada2994.11
New Hampshire1301.81
New Mexico4257.55
North Carolina1,6395.21
Ohio1,3732.79
Oklahoma8324.25
Oregon4215.31
South Carolina1,0883.39
Tennessee1,2004.51
Texas4,2784.58
Utah3672.04
Vermont611.68
Virginia8422.59
Washington5911.65
West Virginia3283.97
Wisconsin7223.62
Wyoming1324.83
Average986.73.65

Age 16

States with min. Learner’s permit age of 16Fatal crashes w/ teen drivers, 2010-2019Fatal crash rate per 10K teen drivers
Connecticut2762.58
Delaware1263.16
Kentucky8336.49
Massachusetts3781.23
New Jersey5891.76
New York1,0791.84
Pennsylvania1,4463.07
Rhode Island610.79
Average5992.62

Fatal crash rate per 10K teen drivers by age, 2010- 2019

States differ widely on the minimum age that teens can get their full license. However, those with a higher minimum age see fewer teen-related fatal crashes.

When the minimum age is 16, states see 3.9 fatal crashes per 10,000 teen drivers. However, the crash rate is 3.2 when the minimum age is 17 and 3.3 when the minimum age is 18.

Check out fatal crash rates for the different minimum ages that states set.

States with min. full license age of 16Fatal crash rate per 10K teen drivers
Alaska3.42
Arizona3.59
Idaho2.57
Kansas3.27
Maine1.43
Minnesota2.2
Mississippi5.78
Montana6.74
New Mexico7.55
North Carolina5.21
North Dakota3.16
Oklahoma4.25
South Carolina3.39
South Dakota3.91
Vermont1.68
Wisconsin3.62
Wyoming4.83
Average3.92
States with min. full license age of 17Fatal crash rate per 10K teen drivers
Alabama4.51
California2.87
Colorado2.57
Delaware3.16
Hawaii2.5
Iowa2.04
Kentucky6.49
Louisiana4.01
Michigan2.52
Nebraska3.38
New York1.84
Oregon5.31
Pennsylvania3.07
Rhode Island0.79
Tennessee4.51
Utah2.04
Washington1.65
West Virginia3.97
Tennessee4.51
Average3.18
States with min. full license age of 18Fatal crash rate per 10K teen drivers
Arkansas5.29
Connecticut2.58
Florida5.05
Georgia4.11
Illinois2.24
Indiana4
Maryland2.77
Massachusetts1.26
Missouri4.41
Nevada4.11
New Hampshire1.81
New Jersey1.76
Ohio2.79
Texas4.58
Virginia2.59
Average3.29

The deadliest time of day for teen drivers

The most dangerous time for teens to drive is 9-10 p.m., according to NHTSA data on young drivers ages 15–20 years old. Teens are involved in 2,504 fatal accidents during this hour.

Following closely are the hours between 4-5 p.m. and 8-9 p.m, both of which see nearly 2,400 fatal accidents. Most states set nighttime driving restrictions starting at 10 p.m. or later for teens with a restricted license.

However, teen drivers get in non-fatal accidents most often during the day. Injury-only and property damage-only accidents happen twice as often during the daylight than nighttime hours.

Daytime includes the hours between midnight to 11:59 a.m. Night involves the hours between noon to 11:59 p.m.

HourFatal accidents with teen driver
12:00 a.m.-12:59 a.m.1784
1:00 a.m.-1:59 a.m.1621
2:00 a.m.-2:59 a.m.1526
3:00 a.m.-3:59 a.m.1249
4:00 a.m.-4:59 a.m.949
5:00 a.m.-5:59 a.m.978
6:00 a.m.-6:59 a.m.1279
7:00 a.m.-7:59 a.m.1635
8:00 a.m.-8:59 a.m.1040
9:00 a.m.-9:59 a.m.906
10:00 a.m.-10:59 a.m.985
11:00 a.m.-11:59 a.m.1171
12:00 noon-12:59 p.m.1440
1:00 p.m.-1:59 p.m.1661
2:00 p.m.-2:59 p.m.1880
3:00 p.m.-3:59 p.m.2326
4:00 p.m.-4:59 p.m.2385
5:00 p.m.-5:59 p.m.2310
6:00 p.m.-6:59 p.m.2317
7:00 p.m.-7:59 p.m.2241
8:00 p.m.-8:59 p.m.2370
9:00 p.m.-9:59 p.m.2506
10:00 p.m.-10:59 p.m.2349
11:00 p.m.-11:59 p.m.2070

Types of teen car accidents by time of day, 2010-2019

Type of accidentDaytimeNighttimeTotal
Injury only2,366,6421,199,9993,566,641
Property damage only6,206,2922,757,5368,963,828
Fatal19,01821,96041,187

76% of Americans are happy with the minimum driving age

There’s almost nothing like that feeling of independence that comes with getting your license for the first time, a feeling that roughly one fifth (20.6%) of Americans want to delay for the youth of America, according to a survey conducted by Finder.com.

When asked their feelings on whether their state’s minimum driving age should be raised, lowered or remain the same, 52.5 million adults said that they wanted the minimum driving age raised in their state.

The overwhelming majority (75.7%) of American adults are happy with the way things are, with 193.2 million adults saying the driving ages should remain as they are, with a further 3.7% (9.4 million US adults) believing that minimum driving ages should be lowered.

Do you think the minimum driving age should be raised, lowered, or kept the same in your state?

Selection% of respondents
Raised20.6%
Lowered3.7%
Kept the same75.7%

Connecticut most in favor of raising the age limit

Connecticut is the most in favor of raising the minimum driving age, with 33.3% of the state wanting the minimum driving age raised, followed by Florida at 29.6%, and New Mexico at 27.6%.

On the other end of the spectrum, Montana is the most in favor of maintaining the status quo, with 92.9%. of respondents saying that the minimum driving age should be kept the same.

Do you think the minimum driving age should be raised, lowered, or kept the same in your state? – by state

StateRaisedLoweredKept the same
Alabama23.5%8.8%67.6%
Arizona26.7%5.0%68.3%
California23.7%3.5%72.8%
Colorado16.9%0.0%83.1%
Connecticut33.3%5.1%61.5%
District of Columbia10.0%10.0%80.0%
Florida29.6%3.7%66.7%
Georgia17.1%1.4%81.4%
Illinois21.6%2.2%76.1%
Indiana23.3%2.3%74.4%
Iowa18.6%4.7%76.7%
Kansas23.1%7.7%69.2%
Kentucky9.1%9.1%81.8%
Maine13.3%0.0%86.7%
Maryland18.8%6.3%75.0%
Massachusetts16.7%0.0%83.3%
Michigan12.1%0.0%87.9%
Minnesota16.2%2.9%80.9%
Missouri19.5%9.1%71.4%
Montana7.1%0.0%92.9%
Nebraska7.4%0.0%92.6%
Nevada25.0%5.0%70.0%
New Jersey19.1%6.4%74.5%
New Mexico27.6%6.9%65.5%
New York21.0%4.0%75.0%
North Carolina23.8%1.5%74.6%
Ohio23.8%5.0%71.3%
Oklahoma16.2%2.7%81.1%
Oregon15.0%10.0%75.0%
Pennsylvania21.3%4.0%74.7%
South Carolina15.4%7.7%76.9%
Tennessee8.8%0.0%91.2%
Texas20.6%5.3%74.0%
Utah17.6%2.9%79.4%
Virginia25.7%3.8%70.5%
Washington15.2%4.3%80.4%
Wisconsin23.9%2.8%73.2%

Methodology

We used the NHTSA’s Fatality and Injury Reporting Tool to gather data on car accidents with teen drivers. We looked at fatal car accidents as well as non-fatal accidents with only injuries or property damage. We also compared the number of fatal accidents by age, state and time of day.

Next, our minimum driving age beliefs data is based on an online survey of 2,001 US adults over the age of 18 commissioned by Finder and conducted by Google Surveys from July 13, 2021, to August 12, 2021. Participants are users on websites in the Google Surveys Publisher Network and are unpaid.

We assume the participants in our survey represent the US population of 255.2 million Americans who are at least 18 years old according to the July 2019 US Census Bureau population estimate. This assumption is made at the 95% confidence level with a 2.2% margin of error. Our survey asked respondents whether they believed that the minimum driving age should be raised, lowered, or kept the same in their state with the possible selections:

  • Raised
  • Lowered
  • Kept the same

For our state-to-state comparison, we excluded states with less than 10 respondents from that state.

Chelsea Wells-Barrett headshot

For all media inquiries, please contact:

Chelsea Wells-Barrett, PR, Media Relations and Communications

E: uspr@finder.com

/in/chelsea-wells-barrett-46b036101/ /CWellsbarrett/

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