General Question

yannick's avatar

How does one go about learning to drive in the US?

Asked by yannick (985points) March 17th, 2008

I’m assuming this is different depending on the state you live in, but I was just wondering what the general ‘learn to drive’ procedure was for you people in the US (e.g. what age you can learn at, etc.), in comparison to how we do it down here in Aus.

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16 Answers

Randy's avatar

I learned at the age of fifteen. My dad took me out in his old truck, told me how and said “go for it”.

delirium's avatar

If you want your license before you’re 18, you have to take a class. Its usually during hte summer and is just about the most awful and boring thing ever.
Some people learn from those classes… (There are four in-car sessions of class required)
If you’re older than 18, you just have to take the test.

yannick's avatar

Huh! Interesting. So basically, once you have learnt yourself and taken a class you can get a license..? Is there a minimum age? (15, for example?)

Randy's avatar

I think I misunderstood the question. I live here in Arkansas and to actually get a license, one just has to be at least age sixteen and pass a written and driving test. At fourteen a teen can get a driving permit which allows them to drive with a licensed adult in the vehicle. Its possible at fourteen to get what’s called a hardship permit. Its like a driving permit only the teen can drive by themselves under certain conditions. I.E.- Driving to school or work. The permit is supposed to be your driving “training”.

DeezerQueue's avatar

Each state has different laws. Generally one can get a learners’ permit at the age of around 15. A learners’ permit requires that you have seated next to you a person over the age of 18 with a valid drivers’ license. This will be your instruction. In most cases you will need to have had your learners’ permit for a minimum of three months.

Many public schools offer drivers’ education classes, as well. You will have to purchase the learners’ permit yourself but will receive instruction in class, which will primarily consist of theory. Actual practice will be less as there are other students to accommodate.

There are also driving schools, most are on the pricey side.

To get a license a person will have to take tests both on theory and practice. The costs are relatively low and affordable to most.

yannick's avatar

@ Randy & DeezerQueue: Cheers, this is exactly what I was wondering. Here in Australia it varies from state to state, but in my state the minimum ‘learners’ age is 16. At this age, we can get a learner’s permit and start driving, like you said, with a full license-holding adult in the car.

We can then get a ‘preliminary’ license, which lasts for about 3 years (I think) which is like a normal license, albeit a few small differences (e.g. reduced maximum speed limit).

Thank you all for your responses, I was just curious as to how it was done in the US, mainly due to the fact that on various US tv shows I had seen, the teens had cars and could drive, and some were only 16 or so.

cwilbur's avatar

The actual ages at which you’re eligible to get a driving permit or to take either the written or road test vary from state to state. And American TV shows are never a good indicator of the way things really work in the US.

yannick's avatar

Hahaha, points taken.

DeezerQueue's avatar

In the Netherlands a person has to be 18 just to begin taking driving lessons, which will be given by a certified driving instructor. They’re high in cost and the average for a beginner is 20 hours. Then there are the costs of the test, rather high in my opinion. The costs almost seem to assist in a class separation here.

We had a lot of fun “cruising” as a teen. Having a car enabled us to attend sporting events, which in the middle of Colorado, were no less than 60 miles away, and without our parents. Having a car was an early taste of independence.

jonno's avatar

An intresting thing too that I’ve heard is that America doesn’t have seperate manual and non-manual licenses – you can pass the driving test and get a licence with an automatic car and you won’t get a non-manual licence. I guess that’s because there aren’t many manual cars in America.

Compare that to here in Australia (where manual cars are the norm, and rightfully so!) – you have to pass the driving test with a manual car unless you want to be stuck using only automatic cars.

yannick's avatar

@DeezerQueue: Wow, 18 seems like pretty late to have to start… For us Australians we need to take a written test to get a learners (which I mentioned earlier) and we have to have held the learner’s license for a full year, AND have at least 50 hours of supervised driving logged in a book, before we can take a test to get a preliminary license.

Also, I agree with what you said about independence. Getting your permit is definitely seen as an important step (or at least it is regarded as one here in Aus) towards full independence. I guess its just a matter of what age this can be attributed to a teen ( I’ve always found 15 or less to be very young to be able to drive).

@jonno: Just saw your response as I was crafting mine – to my own question, funny that! – and I must say I’m surprised about the whole ‘take a test in any car for a full license’ deal. Admittedly, manual cars are slowly diminishing in Australia but I think a mandatory test in a manual for a full license is important, since there are still loads of them out on the roads and even being sold!

DeezerQueue's avatar

I think 18 is a bit old too, particularly if I tell you that you can buy alcohol and cigarettes here at the age of 16.

I suppose every situation is different, I think I can remember someone telling me that in of the more agricultural states it was possible to get a license before 15, but being restricted to daylight hours. Every state has their own set of rules.

Anyway, good question and exchange. :)

yannick's avatar

Yeah, thats a very good point. Although I’d have to say that 16 for alcohol and cigarettes seems young, we have to be 18! So there you go… But I think you’re right, its all up to the state, which is fair enough.

Well, I feel enlightened after this great discussion! Thanks to everyone for their interesting input :D

makailachantel15's avatar

in arkansas you have to be 14 to get a permit, 15 to get a hardship licence, 16 to get a real licence, 18 to buy cigarettes, and 21 too buy alcohol.

yannick's avatar

Am I the only one who finds it strange that you only need to be 18 for cigarettes but 21 for alcohol? In Aus, the two are both the same (18 years old).

krissiix's avatar

Wow, some of you guys can learn so early! In England we can get a provisional license at 17 which means you can start learning but have to have someone over 21 with a license in the passenger seat at all times. Most people also have lessons with an instructor which cosrs about £22 a lesson. Then we have to pass a theory test and practical test within 6 weeks then you’re legal. Generally takes people between 6 months and a year ish.

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