Legal driving ages

I’ve seen various websites that list ages of consent for various countries and jurisdictions…I was wondering if anything similar exists for the more mundane matter of driving licences?

The Roads & Traffic Authority site gives all of the requirements for getting a driver’s licence in New South Wales. Other Australian states and territories have different requirements.


  • the minimum age at which one can get a learner’s permit is 16
  • there are two further provisional licence stages
  • a full licence is not available until age 20 at the earliest

20! :eek: That could never happen in the U.S. I got a full driver’s license on my 15th birthday in Louisiana in 1988.

To the OP, are you asking about England or just places in general?

I’m asking about in general…the basic reason behind it is a suspicion that America seems to have lower driving ages than many other countries…and I’m wondering if it’s a US/Europe divide, or something far more diverse.

This page covers the U.S. A quick summary is that all of the states grant a full license between 15 and 16 1/2. The one notable exception is that you have to be 18 to drive in New York City. Somes states do have a curfew restriction for drivers under the age of 18 however.

Oops, I missed one. The exception to the 16 1/2 rule is New Jersey who requires 17 for a learner’s permit and 18 for a regular license. I can’t believe I have never heard of that before. Sucks yet again to be them.

Thanks, Shagnasty - that’s the kind of link I was hoping for.

Now you’ve confirmed the insanely-early age at which Americans get behind the wheel, is there any other information for elsewhere??

Well, that is all the legal info but I can tell you that my parents let me run errands for them in the car alone when I was 14 as long as I promised to be “extra careful”. I learned to drive with them in the car when I was 12 and did quite well. My best friend bought his first truck when he was 13 and used it to drive to school. Nobody thought it was that odd.

Some states have a farming license that let’s the kids that live on farms drive as early as 14 (or maybe younger?) as long as it is for farming related business and there is a hardship demonstrated. Here is one example that I found for Michigan.

Shagnasty’s link is slightly outdated. Several states have gone to Graduated Licensing Systems, where there are either 1 or two stages before the driver gets a full license.

Permits for children under 16 or so are NOT a free license to drive anywhere at anytime.

In Kansas, the 14 year old permit is for farm vehicles only, as far as I know. In Missouri, you can get a provisional license at 15 1/2 with which you can drive with a licensed parent or guardian in the passenger seat, during daylight hours. Only when you’re 16 and have passed the test, can you drive by yourself, and there are time restrictions on that, too, but in my experience, were never reinforced.

Just a nitpick - as someone who got her license in New Jersey not so long ago and knows some NJ teens who have recently acquired their own, the breakdown is more like:

Age 16: Receive driver’s permit
Age 17: Receive restricted driver’s license (no more than one teen in the car other than the driver without an adult over 21; no driving between midnight and 5am)
Age 18: Receive unrestricted driver’s privileges

I don’t know the law now, but 14 years ago in Kansas you could get a restricted license which allowed you to drive to school or work (whether or not farm related).

As a Kansas resident displaced by my Father’s military assignment to Ft. Sheridan IL, I was able to acquire said restricted license at the age of 14, and (at least as far as my mother was concerned) able to drive to and from work in Highwood and Highland Park Illinios (which has no such provisions). Lucky for me, I was never pulled over so this was never tested in the courts. I had a fully acceptable out-of-state license, but I did not in any way meet the criteria for license in Illiniois. I still do wonder how this would have played out.

But we can go into bars at 18. :smiley:

To expand on Cunctator’s information, you can be out and about driving by yourself on your seventeenth birthday, in theory. The laws have been greatly toughened up in the years since I got my licence, because of the over-representation of young drivers in fatality figures.

On or after your sixteenth birthday, you can apply for your “Learner’s Permit” (via a multiple choice knowledge test), and you need to have a fully licenced driver in the passenger seat at all times, with a black and yellow L sign on the front and rear of the car. You are restricted to 80kmh (about 50mph).

After logging at least 50 hours driving (this is different from my day, when you could sit the test when you felt ready, and even the driving schools usually gave about ten hours), and after your seventeenth birthday, you can sit for your practical driving test, and if you pass will be issued with your “Red P’s”.

Displaying red and white P plates on the car, you can drive alone on a “Provisional 1 licence” limited to 90kmh and a zero blood alcohol level, and can only drive an automatic car if that’s what you passed the test in.

You can apply for “Provisional 2” at 18 by completing a “Hazard Perception Test” (the details of which I don’t know as it wasn’t there when I went through the process), and then you’ll need to drive with green and white P plates for a further two years, limited to 100kmh and zero blood alcohol level. To progress to your “full licence”, you then have to pass further advanced knowledge testing.

So the earliest you can have a full licence is age twenty, but if you just want to be able to drive around with your friends without a parent sitting in the passenger seat (which is good enough for most kids), you can be doing that at 17.

It is much, much tougher than when I did it. Back then, the process was less than two years rather than four and only involved half of the testing. You’d do an easy theory test to get the learner’s permit at 16, and at I think 16 and ten months, could sit the road test, then you’d have red P plates for a year, and then would automatically get your full licence. And you could pass your test in an automatic, and then get out and into a manual and lurch away legally.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this is not the case now, but I seem to remember that you could start the process at 15 and be given a restricted licence to drive certain routes only, if you had a good reason such as living in the outback and needing to drive to school, or having to look after a disabled family member.

After age 80, you will need to pass a practical driving test every year.

Well, Suffolk ain’t Kansas (where you can get a learner’s permit at 14). The reason behind this is of course the fact that many teens historically worked on very, very large farms that were very, very far out from town. In some parts of the State, even just a county or two west of me, I know people who if they didn’t drive themselves to school would not likely have been able to go, as there was no bus and their parents had to work. And you can forget about the train…

Evidently, the insurance industry and actuaries don’t have too big of a problem with it.

The details of Kansas regs on the so-called “farm permit” can be found here:

From that link:

Is there any place in the world where you can drive as soon as you’re tall enough to reach the pedals? Whether strictly legally, or in a the-police-look-the-other-way sense?

I should think this is why Australia makes you wait until 20 for the license. Otherwise the distances involved, population density, car cultures etc of Australia & the US seem similar.

I think this depends upon the type of vehicle you’re talking about. In places like SE Asia where everyone has a motorized two-wheel vehicle (“moto” or “xe om”) and few people can afford cars it appeared to me anyone who climb on the things without falling off was good to go. Maybe not officially, but as a practical matter this seemed to be how things operate.

As a practical matter it seemed that citizens of Qatar were allowed to drive and do some pretty wild stunts at young ages, although officially required to have licenses. Like every other law in the country there seemed to be different levels of enforcement for natives and guest workers (and not always more lax for the locals, although tur in this case). Qatari women have been legally allowed to drive for about 8 years, which is a big deal.

That should read “although TRUE in this case.” :smack:

In California, 16 year old are allowed to get driver’s license, but are not allowed to drive with anyone in the car under the age of 21 unless they have a licensed adult over the age of 21 accompanying them. So, they can drive alone or with an adult, but not go cruising around with friends. I believe this is the case until the driver is 18 years old. In fact, from the age of 16 to 18, the license is technically “provisional”.

Funny result of this law: my sister, who is is five and a half years younger than me, actually got her license before me, when she was 17 and I was 22. Since I had a driver’s permit and my friends were all over the age of 21 and largely licensed drivers, it was perfectly legal for me to drive around with my friends, while my sister, who had an actual license, could not.

I’m not sure when this law was introduced, but it sure as hell wasn’t around when I was in high school.

I think that in most, if not all western european countries, you can’t get a license before 18.