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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Car Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: Apr 6, 2022

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The Short of It

  • In most states, a permit driver must have an adult in the car with them, though there are occasional exceptions
  • The consequences of driving alone with a learner’s permit include the loss of your permit, fines, and increased car insurance prices for years
  • Adults with learner’s permits have many of the restrictions lifted

Getting your permit is a time of excitement for most teens, but there are a lot of rules that come with this new responsibility. One of the most important things is to always have a licensed adult in the car before you drive.

Can you drive alone with a permit? If you drive alone with a permit and get caught, the consequences could haunt you for years to come. From points on your license to increased car insurance rates, permit drivers should strive to follow all traffic laws.

Read on to learn if you can drive alone with a permit. Then, compare quotes from insurance companies to find the best coverage rates for your needs.

What are the rules for driving with a learner’s permit?

A learner’s permit (also known as an instructional permit) is the first step new drivers take to get a driver’s license. States have varying laws regarding the use of a permit, but you can usually get one between the ages of 14 and 16.

The purpose of a permit is to give new drivers the experience they’ll need to navigate streets and highways under the helpful eye of a driving mentor. Drivers typically need at least half a year of driving experience with a permit before they can take their driving test.

Every state differs, but the rules of driving with a learner’s permit follow the same principles:

  • The permit driver must be accompanied by an adult with a driver’s license.
  • Follow all traffic laws, including seatbelt and cell phone use regulations.
  • Limit the number of passengers below the age of 21 as much as possible.

Of course, not all drivers with a learner’s permit are minors. Adults taking their first step towards a driver’s license still need to complete a specific period with their learner’s permit, but they don’t have as many restrictions.

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What are the consequences of breaking the rules?

While breaking traffic laws is never a good idea, driving by yourself when you have a permit can be particularly bad.

Most states require that a driver with a learner’s permit must always be accompanied by an adult. You’ll face severe consequences if you’re caught driving alone, and all you have to show is a learner’s permit. Consequences vary by state but commonly include:

  • An increased waiting time before you can take your driving test
  • Points on your license
  • Fines and citations that stay on your driving record
  • Suspension or revocation of your permit
  • Arrest

Besides these immediate consequences, you’ll also face higher insurance rates. Getting a ticket for driving without a license or an adult is a significant mark against you and will make your car insurance more expensive. Depending on your record, you might be dropped by your company.

There are other rules you should be aware of, too. Many states have laws regarding who can be in a car with a permitted driver, limiting the number of minor passengers you can carry. Permit drivers also often have curfews that they can’t drive after.

Are there any restrictions on driving with a learner’s permit in your state?

Most states say that drivers with a learner’s permit cannot drive by themselves for any reason. That extends to incapacitated adults, meaning a parent can’t ask their son or daughter with a permit to drive them home after drinking too much.

However, every state is different, and in some states, you can drive by yourself with a permit. You can check your state below.

StateCan you drive alone with a permit?Restrictions
CaliforniaYesTeens can drive themselves to school
ColoradoYesOnly in medical emergencies
MontanaYesAfter 50 hours of driving, permit drivers can go to school, work, church, or drive due to an emergency
New HampshireNoN/A
New JerseyNoN/A
New MexicoNoN/A
New YorkNoN/A
North CarolinaNoN/A
North DakotaNoN/A
Rhode IslandNoN/A
South CarolinaNoN/A
South DakotaNoN/A
West VirginiaNoN/A
WisconsinNoWith a hardship permit, meaning you have no other way to get to school or work
WyomingYesWith a hardship permit, meaning you have no other way to get to school or work
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As you can see, the main reason that permit drivers are allowed to get behind the wheel by themselves is due to medical emergencies or having no other way to get to school or work.

The 5 Steps to Getting Your Learner’s Permit

Most teens are thrilled to getting their learner’s permit, but the process isn’t as simple as filling out an application at your local DMV. Use the following five steps to get your hands on a learner’s permit and start driving.

  • Study for your permit test. You can’t get behind the wheel without demonstrating you know traffic laws. Check with your state’s DMV page for a study guide, and give yourself at least a week to familiarize yourself with it.
  • Take a driver’s education course. Most teens can take a driving course (also known as driver’s ed) at their high school. If your school doesn’t offer it, there are many free programs available to teens.
  • Take a practice test. Don’t rely on simple studying – take as many practice tests as you need to be comfortable with the real thing.
  • Fill out an application. You can do this step in person, and most states offer it online. You might have to pay a registration fee for your permit.
  • Take your test. Once you’ve studied, practiced, and applied, the only thing standing between you and your permit is a written test.

You can immediately start driving once you have your permit as long as an adult is with you.

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Can I drive alone safely with a learner’s permit?

Whether you can drive safely without a permit depends on your age. If you are a legal adult and follow all traffic laws, you’ll likely be fine driving unsupervised.

However, minors must be accompanied by an adult. Teen drivers are at the highest risk of dying in a traffic incident. Their inexperience on the road leads to reckless behavior or situations they are simply not equipped to deal with yet.

Traffic incidents are the number one killer of people aged 16 to 19. Your local DMV is trying to keep you safe by insisting that you keep an adult driver with a license in the car with you. They can help you figure out how to deal with aggressive drivers, heavy traffic, and bad weather.

Learn How Driving by Yourself With a Permit Can Affect Your Insurance

Getting behind the wheel of a car when you only have a learner’s permit is an example of reckless, endangering behavior. Insurance companies look for this sort of example to determine how much to charge you.

Teens already have the highest insurance rates of any age. Avoid adding to that price by waiting until you have your driver’s license before venturing out on your own.

Now that you know you can drive alone with a permit in very specific situations only, you know how to avoid one way of increasing your car insurance rates. You can find the best rates by comparing prices with many companies and choosing the one most suited to you.