Illinois’ New Teen Driver Laws Explained

An article featured in the October issue of The Community Word outlined the potential pitfalls teen drivers face and the requirements for the state’s graduated licensing system. On August 20 of this year, Governor Blagojevich signed a law that tightens the restrictions imposed on young drivers with the intention of making teenagers more responsible drivers. This new law triples the amount of time a teen is required to have a learner’s permit, imposes a stricter curfew, and requires more instructor-supervised street driving.

Statistics and studies show that teen drivers have a higher rate of accidents and traffic fatalities than any other age group. Teen drivers who are between the ages of 16 and 19 are four times more likely to cause an accident than an older and more experienced driver. More than 8,000 people are killed and 700,000 injured by teenage auto accidents each year, accounting for $40 billion in damages and medical costs. In 2005, over 6,000 young people, ages 15 to 20, died in motor vehicle crashes. In fact, automobile accidents are the leading cause of death among people 15 to 20; the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says one-third of all deaths in that age range are caused by motor vehicle accidents. Teen drivers make up 6 percent of Illinois drivers, but they account for 16 percent of all crash fatalities in the state.

States that impose a comprehensive teen driving program tend to experience lower crash rates and see a drop in teen driving fatalities. A July study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health showed stricter guidelines and driving curfews reduce the number of traffic fatalities among 16-year-old drivers by 20 percent. North Carolina had one of the first strict graduated licensing programs in the country, and the number of crashes involving 16 year olds decrease by 60 percent in the first year. In recent years both California and Maryland saw the number of crashes for drivers ages 15 to 17 decrease by 5 percent after beginning a comprehensive and strict licensing system. Maryland also reported a 10 percent decrease in convictions for drivers age 16 to 17.

Even with the knowledge surrounding teenage driving, the education program in Illinois has long been considered sub par.

Illinois currently requires teen drivers to have a learner’s permit for three months, which is one of the shortest mandatory periods in the country. Forty-five states require a longer “holding” period, with the national average being six months.

Additionally, many driving education programs across the country require six hours of instructor-supervised street driving. This is currently a requirement in Illinois, but a Chicago Tribune study found that students only average 1 hour and 40 minutes to 3 hours of supervised drive time, all well below the required six hours. Illinois allows students to supplement instructor-supervised street driving with simulators and driving courses set up in parking lots. If a teen uses a driving simulator, only three hours of supervised on-the-road training must be completed, and if a driving range is used, then stu dents only need an hour of supervised street driving. This standard is the second most lenient in the country, only behind Florida.

Teens are often taught using simulators and driving ranges due to the high cost of individual road training. One instructor can supervise up to twenty students on simulators or ten students on a driving range, whereas instructors on the road can only take two or three students per car.

In an effort to create stronger and more effective driving laws, Secretary of State Jesse White created a 27-member task force last August that is composed of educators, judges, law enforcement officials, legislators, and traffic safety experts. The group was created to focus on ways to reduce the number of auto accidents and fatalities among teens. Jesse White explained why he created the task force: “While Illinois’ law already contains many of the components that are believed to reduce traffic fatalities for these young drivers, we want to make sure that we take every reasonable step possible to save more lives. These young people are our future leaders and we want to protect them so they have the opportunity to grow up and fulfill their aspirations.”

In December 2006, the task force submitted recommendations on new ways to make teens more prepared when obtaining their licenses. Legislators worked with the recommendations and proposed a bill to the Illinois House, which was passed unanimously in May. Just last month, Governor Blagojevich signed the bill that affects about 300,000 Illinois teen drivers.

Under the new driving law, teens will be required to posses a learner’s permit for at least nine months, an increase from the current three months. Before obtaining a license, drivers with a learner’s permit must have no violations for nine months, and drivers 16 and 17 years old need to have a clean record for at least 6 months before obtaining an unrestricted license.

In response to studies that show teenage fatalities are three times higher from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., driving curfews will be imposed an hour earlier. Curfews are now 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Sunday-Thursday and 12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday, but will begin at 10:00 p.m. on weekdays and 11:00 p.m. on weekends. Exceptions to the curfew include having a parent in the car; doing an errand for a parent; and driving to and from work, school, or a religious activity.

Currently, teens are only allowed one passenger who is under the age of 20 (excluding immediate family members) during the first six months of having a license. The new laws increase this timeframe to 12 months after obtaining a drivers license and allows the passengers who violate this law to be ticketed.

The new driving law also states that students must complete the full six hours of instructor-supervised on-the-road driving. Simulators or driving courses are no longer allowed to supplement the six-hour requirement.

These changes will go into effect January 1, 2008, except for the six-hour instructor-supervised street-driving requirement, which will go into effect July 1, 2008. Legislators pushed back that deadline to give schools more time to acquire enough funding to meet the conditions.

Amanda Knowles

22 comments for “Illinois’ New Teen Driver Laws Explained

  1. Matt
    October 8, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    I am 16, just got my license (october). Do i get the grandfather clause from these new laws effective jan 1st? because i already have my license, do i just follow the rules implimented now (at the time that i got my license). please email back asap. thanks, matt

  2. matt
    October 20, 2007 at 11:33 am

    Is the illinois drivers permit restricted to illinos alone or can it be used in other states?


  3. Greg
    November 4, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    There is no “grandfather” clause to this new set of restrictions; it primarily applies to those currently in driver’s education, requiring a more extensive amount of practice or training time before being eligible to test for a license. There are some expanded provisions for newly licensed drivers (mroe restrictive curfew, enhanced penalties/suspensions on too many tickets) that affect all drivers under 21.

    As far as the permit, it is only valid in Illinois unless the other state has an allowance for an out-of-state permit holder, and then must abide by the laws of that particular state, not the Illinois provisions.

  4. brittney
    December 3, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    I will be getting my permit in spring 2008. Is it true that we will have to drive 100 hours just to get the permit?

  5. Ashley
    December 7, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    This law is absolutely rediculous. Most kids with jobs do not get off work untill atleast ten and restricing there curfew is not going to stop them from staying out untill midnight. I know many people including there parents who are not going ot abide by or enforce this rule. Maybe once every 16 year old in the town has multiple curfew tickets you will all realize how completely stupid you really are. Get a life, stop trying to stop the inevitable. Kids are going to crash, whether they are out late or not.- Ashley

    If the law makers were seventeen again they would be mad about this too. It is not going to stop anything from happening. I am still going to stay out till 12. Have fun with your stupid law. – kayla

    If your 17 you can go to jail. If your 17 you can probably go to prison if you kill someone. If we can be punished as adults why cant we be treated like adults. The curfew is not going to stop anybody. I find this law rediculous and childish for you to think a one hour difference is going to save the world. It’s not. It is just going to make things worse when everybody rebels – Jill

  6. Cory
    December 14, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    My 16th birthday is in February 2008. I will have had my permit for 6 months will i get my license then or have to wait for the 9 months.

  7. 1234
    December 29, 2007 at 11:44 am

    I took drivers ed in may of 2007..and i’ve had my lisence since then..if i go to the DMV to get my lisence after january 1st would i have to follow all the new rules?

  8. Natalie
    January 1, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    I have had my lisence for about three months now. It’s now january 1st, but I thought that all these new laws applied to people that will obtain their permits after january 1st. Do the curfew laws apply to everybody ( even people that already have their licenses before 2008? ) or are they for people who get their licenses starting january 1st?

  9. Elliott
    January 1, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    I am 17 and i have been since october. will the new curfew law affect me even though i have already had no curfew for the past four months? also, is the new curfew law just for driving or is it a general curfew as well?

  10. Jacob Romanus
    January 4, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    I am 17 years old and have been since September. I find this new curfew law to be completely absurd. I have never been in an accident and i have never even been pulled over, neither have any of my friends. but we still have to be home by 10:00p.m.? This makes no sense to me. I find it completely irrelevant to impose our curfew an hour earlier just to try to reduce teen accidents.

  11. Kate Zimmerman
    January 8, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    I compleatly agree with the comment above.  I have been 17 since September as well, and I have a perfect driving record!  I would hope that the Illinois Government would not punish the well behaved teenage drivers.

  12. Bill
    January 16, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    I just watched a politician (the knucklehead leader of this cause) say he wants this to “protect” the kids. He goes on to say he wants kids to stay off the roads because drunk drivers (aka adults) are out at that time. What an absurd statement.

    Why stop good kids from driving to protect them from poorly behaving adults (dangerous adults)?

    I know somone who was just killed by a drunk driver who had a NCIC report six pages long. Mr. Politician, why don’t you get the guts to keep these real offenders off the road? Why do they get to a six page rap sheet and the innocent get priviledges restricted?

    There are a lot of good kids out there. I’ve arrested a few of them who made mistakes… that doesn’t make them bad. Yes, they need direction, but come on… we don’t deal with the problems. Let’s put the real bad guys behind bars: the ones with DUI’s over and over again. Let’s stop letting them free with a slap on the wrist to kill people and let’s stop picking on our kids.


    Aeronautical Engineer, MBA, Ex-Police Officer
    30+ year old

  13. Elizabeth
    January 17, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Even though i recieved my licnse before this law was passed, do I still need to follow the curfew law?

  14. Shawna
    February 2, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    From my research, yes. Curfew applies to anyone under the age 18, even if you’ve had your lisence before ’08. Yes, I know. Bogus. I’ll be 17 in March, and I will be getting my lisence then. I definetly think these are harsh laws. I don’t think we should be punished with these new laws because of our age and the (drunk driving) accidents. Most teenagers are going to rebel to this anyways, I mean that’s what we do. In the outcome we’re going to have more teenagers in trouble with driving laws than drunk people killing innocent people. I hope this backfires on Illinois, and people realize those were stupid laws that no one is going to benefit from. Its reasons like this that make me hate Illinois. Why don’t we put drunk drivers in jail longer, with much harsher punishments rather than punishing teenagers for all the wrong reasons.

  15. Shawna
    February 2, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Oh, and look at that. An Ex-Police Officer even thinks it’s bogus.
    Wow, there’s somebody with a good head on their shoulders. Stupid politicians.

  16. Kayla Raetz
    February 13, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    i have had my licence ever since july 2007. and i thought that there was a law that said you could have ne number of people in your car after like 6 months or something. well now ive had my licence for 7 months… do the old laws count for me or do i have to follow the new driving ones to have only 1 other person in your car.. please respond back. thanks

  17. courtney
    April 1, 2008 at 9:06 am

    Im 14 , and turing 15 in august, and this law states that i have to have my permit for 9 months?! i dont mind the 50 hours, but one you have completed them, you should be able to get you license. I also heard something about the state lowering the permit age to 14?


  18. Bridgette
    May 12, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Im 15 and doing a persuasive speech on the cons of the new driving laws and I was wondering if anyone else who reads this or posts any more information if they could also post the sources that would be great.By the way I hate the new driving laws!!!

  19. john
    May 13, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    I’ve got a question.

    If im out with my brother thats 19 years old past curfew am I technically still breaking the law? (i’m 16)

  20. Cassie
    November 2, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    Hey. I’ve got a question. im sixteen and i have had my license since feb. Does the whole, not being allowed to have more than one person in my car other than immediate family for 12 months apply to me. Because i had my permit before januart 1st? i am just wondering. Because i have already had my license for almost a year and my parents are constantly on my case about it. so could you please e-mail me back.

  21. April 9, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    I’m just thankful there was a police officer that could see outside the box!
    Leave the inocents alone and get the dangerous ones.

  22. missymae
    June 14, 2011 at 2:38 am

    For the teen driving curfew for being new licensed curfew is 10pm on weekdays and 11 Pm on weekends for 16-17 years old. However. If there is an emergency, family member in hospital/ need to pick up a family member or friend thats in danger. Would the curfew matter if its an absolute EMERGENCY. ? Curious.

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