The Driver’s License

For as long as most of us can remember, teenagers have looked forward to that day when they could take their driver’s test and head out on the open road. That day comes on their sixteenth birthday in most states. Of course, parents should make sure to get car insurance quotes before allowing their teenagers to take the driver’s test, as their rates will be going up.

Teenagers fortunate enough to live in the following states can actually get their licenses before they turn 16:

  • Hawaii (15)
  • Idaho (15)
  • Louisiana (15)
  • Montana (15)
  • New Mexico (15)
  • South Carolina (15)
  • South Dakota (14)
  • Wyoming (15)

Conversely, those unfortunate enough to live in New Jersey need to wait until their 18th birthday. While that’s probably not the most popular law amongst the state’s teenagers, it does help keep the car insurance quotes down to a manageable level for parents.

While most teenagers won’t believe it, there was a day when the only license you needed to drive a car was your parents’ permission. Ronald Reagan was fond of reminiscing of those days when criticizing government control. In his mind, parents were a better judge of whether or not Junior was ready to sit behind the wheel of the family car than government officials.

Who knows? Maybe he was right. There really isn’t any evidence which suggests requiring driver’s licenses has cut down on the incidents of automobile accidents at all. And that was, after all, the reason why driver’s license requirements were introduced.

The development of the Model T put enough cars on the road that many Americans began to be concerned about road safety. The outcry became serious enough that the United States actually sent a delegation to study the German and French system of licensing drivers and ensuring that the drivers on the road were competent to drive.

Germany, which was the first country to require its drivers to be licensed, actually made all drivers pass an examination. Back then, the test had more to do with mechanical ability, and was designed to ensure that a driver could get his car moving again if it stalled out in the middle of the road.

None of the US states required testing at first (though the idea caught on later, albeit as an actual driving test), but they did adopt the idea of licensing fairly quickly. Missouri and Massachusetts were the first states to issue licenses, as early as 1903. South Dakota was the last state to require licensing, in 1954.

Leave a comment