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The Varying Drivers License Requirements Around the World

Minimum driving ages, the number of passengers young drivers can have with them at any time, the times of day that drivers under the age of 18 can drive…

These all vary depending on where young motorists are driving. They vary, even, across the United States.

For instance, in Maine, motorists under the age of 18 aren’t allowed to have any passengers with them as they drive for the first 180 days after they obtain their licenses. In Alabama, motorists under the age of 18 can have one passenger with them.

And that’s just one example of the differences in driving license requirements from one part of the country to the next. The differences are even more pronounced when comparing one country to another. Minimum driving ages vary widely across the world. While most states in the United States allow youngsters to earn their learner’s permits at the age of 15, many other countries require their residents to be much older before they get behind the wheel of a car.

For instance, in countries such as Sweden, Serbia, Malta, Germany and Italy, residents must be at least 18 before they can legally drive a motor vehicle. In other countries, though, drivers can be much younger: In Ethiopia, 14-year-olds can legally drive motor vehicles. In New Zealand they only have to be 15, while in Australia and Canada, they must have turned 16.

In the United States, there is little conformity when it comes to driving rules. For instance, depending on the state in which they live, motorists must have either one or two license plates on their vehicles. The residents in 19 states are only required to purchase one plate for their vehicles. Massachusetts is an especially vexing state: Here, drivers can have either one or two plates for their vehicles.

Three states, Washington, New Mexico and Utah, allow illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses. That’s because the laws in these states don’t require applicants to prove their citizenship or legal residency when applying for licenses.

Other states boast different driving restrictions for young drivers. In most cases, drivers under the age of 18 are not allowed to drive unsupervised from the hours of midnight until 5 a.m.

But, as always, there are exceptions. In Idaho, motorists under the age of 18 are not allowed to drive from sunset to sunrise, a law that’s a bit vague. In Nevada, these drivers can’t drive unsupervised from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. In Tennessee, that restricted time runs from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. Virginia forbids young motorists from driving unsupervised from midnight until 4 a.m., while in New York state, young drivers can’t get behind the wheels of their cars unsupervised from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m.

The best advice for drivers of any age? They should study the rules of the road for their own states carefully. Police officers won’t be lenient based on ignorance of the law.