Can you drive alone with a permit?

Can you drive alone with a permit? Driving alone with only a learner's permit is illegal in every state. Most states require learner's permit drivers to be accompanied by a licensed adult driver in the passenger seat at all times. A few states also only allow unlicensed teen drivers to drive with a parent or driving instructor present. Some states do offer licenses specifically for teens driving to and from school.

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: Feb 3, 2022

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Things to Remember

  • Neither teenage nor adult drivers can drive alone in any state with only a learner’s permit
  • Most states require learner’s permit drivers to have a licensed adult in the passenger seat at all times
  • Some states allow drivers under 18, without full licenses, to apply for special licenses that allow them to drive to and from school on their own

Have you just passed the DMV permit test and now you’re wondering if there’s any way to drive on your own so you can gain some practice? Or maybe you want to know if a permit allows you to drive alone in a limited capacity, such as only to school or work. So, can you drive alone with a permit?

Unfortunately, there are very few cases where driving alone with a permit won’t result in a penalty of some kind, with emergencies as a possible exception.

That said, there are a few states that offer restricted licenses for the sole purpose of driving alone for school or work-related reasons. And if you’re over the age of 18, upgrading a permit to an unrestricted license may be easier than you think.

Read on to discover all that you need to know about driving with a permit, including how permit rules differ based on your age and state. You may also want to review our guides to learner’s permit insurance and new driver auto insurance if you’re looking to save on auto insurance costs.

Are you a new driver or the parent of one? In either case, insurance for an inexperienced driver can be expensive. Try our free online quote tool to compare auto insurance companies and find an affordable policy that’s right for you.

Can you drive by yourself with a permit?

There are virtually no situations where a learner’s permit is sufficient to drive a car alone. While an unlicensed driver may not face fines or charges based on the circumstances, even driving a car alone due to a medical emergency is illegal without a license.

Since your state probably doesn’t allow driving alone with a permit, here are some other options that may help you more quickly reach a point where you’re able to drive alone:

  • If you’re under 18, see if your state offers licenses for restricted solo driving to teen drivers (such as only to school or work)
  • If you’re over 18, contact your state DMV or equivalent about requirements for receiving a full driver’s license. You may also find it helpful to inquire about options for preparing for the written and road tests

State law varies when it comes to how old you have to be to get your permit, but in many states the answer is 15 years old.

In what states can you drive alone with a permit?

The vast majority of states don’t allow driving alone with a permit, with the possible exception of medical emergencies. Even an adult driver with a learner’s permit still can’t drive alone. That said, some states allow drivers to apply for a license with more restrictions than a full — or even intermediate — driver’s license but with fewer than a learner’s permit.

For example, the Iowa Department of Transportation allows young drivers (14 years and six months old is the minimum age required) to apply for “Minor School Licenses.” These licenses allow teen drivers to drive without adult supervision with some restrictions:

  • Driving is only permitted between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.
  • Driving can only be to and from school, for school activities, or for farm-related work
  • Driving is limited to locations within 50 miles from a driver’s home

We recommend visiting your state’s DMV website or equivalent to determine if there’s a license with fewer restrictions than a learner’s permit available to drivers who don’t qualify for an intermediate or full license.

What are the driving permit rules if you’re over 18?

As is the case with drivers under 18, adult drivers still need a full driver’s license before they’re legally permitted to drive alone. Whether you’re a minor or an adult with a learner’s permit, you need to have a fully licensed driver in the passenger seat at all times regardless of what state you live in.

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Who can be in the car with a permit driver?

Every state requires permit drivers to have a fully licensed adult in the passenger seat whenever they drive a car. State laws differ in regard to the degree of experience required by the licensed passenger. In some states, a licensed adult passenger can be as young as 18. Others, like the state of Washington, require an adult passenger who has had a license for over five years to ride with the learner’s permit driver.

But age isn’t always the only requirement that states uphold. According to ARAG Legal, some states only allow parents or driving instructors to supervise teen drivers. Check with your state’s DMV or equivalent for specific guidelines.

Can you drive with a permit in another state?

As is the case with minimum auto insurance requirements, each state has its own set of rules for permit drivers. And since restrictions like age requirements often don’t transfer cleanly between states, most states don’t allow drivers with a learner’s permit from another state to operate a motor vehicle — even if the driver is following permit guidelines in both states.

Graduated Driver's License Program Minimum Age Requirements by State

StatesMinimum Age for Learner's PermitMinimum Age for Restricted LicenseMinimum Age for Full License
Washington, DC1616.518
New Hampshire15.51617.1
New Jersey161718
New Mexico1515.516.5
New York1616.517 with classes; 18 without
North Carolina151616.5
North Dakota141516
Pennsylvania1616.517 with classes; 18 without
Rhode Island1616.517.5
South Carolina1515.516.5
South Dakota1414.516
West Virginia151617
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Keeping in mind that out-of-state driving may not be the best practice for a driver who is still learning the rules of their home state, you can contact your state’s DMV or equivalent to determine if there are any other states where your learner’s permit remains valid.

What to Remember About Driving With a Permit

  • Driving alone, with only a learner’s permit, is illegal in every state. An unlicensed driver may not face charges if they drive alone due to a medical emergency, but even this isn’t guaranteed
  • Most states require learner’s permit drivers to have a licensed adult in the passenger seat. Some states also only consider supervising adults to include parents and driving instructors
  • Minors, in some states, may be able to apply for a special license that allows them to drive to and from school alone — with several guidelines to follow when doing so

Are you a new driver looking for affordable auto insurance? Try our free online quote tool to compare rates from different insurance companies and find a plan that’s right for you.

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