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Michigan Teen Driving Laws: What You Need To Know

October 20, 2020 by Steven M. Gursten

Michigan Teen Driving Laws Explained

The Michigan teen driving laws are based on graduated licensing to eventually obtain a full driver’s license without driving restrictions. Most teenagers begin with driving restrictions, a temporary driving instruction permit, and a driving examination.

As this is National Teen Driver Safety Week, there is no better time than now to talk about the Michigan teen driving laws. The purpose behind the Michigan teen driving laws are to impose a series of graduated restrictions aimed at keeping young drivers and the public safe.

Whether this means a teenager is working his or her way through the graduating licensing system or is “learning by doing” with a temporary driver’s instruction permit, he or she is learning and practicing what it means to be a safe driver. This should not be overlooked. Young and new drivers are statistically the most dangerous and the most likely to be involved in a car crash.

Thankfully, the process largely works. Between 2015 and 2019, we have seen significant drops in the involvement of teenagers operating motor vehicles aged 16-18 years of age in fatal car crashes in Michigan.

Michigan teen driving laws for 17 years olds and younger

The Michigan teen driving laws require that teenagers who are 17 years of age or younger must comply with the graduated licensing law in order to qualify to be issued a driver’s license (which is also referred to an operator’s license). (MCL 257.310e(1))

There are three levels of graduated licensing statuses in Michigan:

  • Level 1 graduated licensing status: According to the Michigan teen driving laws a person who is 14 years and 9 months of age or older may be issued a Level 1 graduated licensing status is if he or she meets vision and health standards, completed segment 1 of a driver education course and received approval from a parent or guardian. To drive, a teenage driver must be accompanied by a licensed parent, guardian or adult 21 years of age or older. Level 1 lasts for at least six months. (MCL 257.310e(3) and (4))
  • Level 2 graduated licensing status: A person must have had a Level 1 graduated licensing status for at least six months, have completed segment 2 of the driver education course, not gotten any tickets, acquired the necessary “behind-the-wheel experience” and completed a “driving skills test.” A teenager with a Level 2 graduated licensing status cannot drive between certain hours and cannot drive with more than 1 passenger under the age of 21, subject to certain exceptions. (MCL 257.310e(5) and (6))
  • Level 3 graduated licensing status: The Michigan teen driving laws state that a person must be at least 17 years of age and have gone “12 consecutive months” without a traffic violation while he or she “was issued a level 2 graduated licensing status.” There are no restrictions for teenage drivers on a Level 3 graduated licensing status. (MCL 257.310e(9))

The graduated licensing system ceases to apply to teenage drivers once they turn 18. (MCL 257.310e(8))

Michigan teen driving laws for 18 year olds and 19 year olds

An original driver’s license will not be issued to 18 and 19 year olds unless they have first been issued a temporary instruction permit. They also must pass an examination that includes a driving skills test, knowledge test and road sign test. (MCL 257.306(1); 257.310c(1); 257.309(4-6))

Teenage fatal car crashes

Below are the statistics for teenagers operating motor vehicles who were involved in fatal car crashes in Michigan between 2015 and 2019:

  • 14-year-olds: The number of 14-year-old drivers involved in fatal car crashes dropped 100%.
  • 15-year-olds: The number of 15-year-old drivers involved in fatal car crashes increased 25%.
  • 16-year-olds: The number of 16-year-old drivers involved in fatal car crashes decreased nearly 65%.
  • 17-year-olds: The number of 17-year-old drivers involved in fatal car crashes decreased nearly 63%.
  • 18-year-olds: The number 18-year-old drivers involved in fatal car crashes decreased nearly 9%.
  • 19-year-olds: The number 19-year-old drivers involved in fatal car crashes increased approximately 3%.
  • 16-year-olds through 20-year-olds: The number of these teenage/young drivers involved in all motor vehicle crashes decreased 5%.
  • 16-year-olds through 20-year-olds: The number of these teenage/young drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes decreased nearly 20%.

How old do you have to be to drive in Michigan?

Generally, the law states that a person under 18 years of age will not be issued an operator’s license to. However, teenagers who are 17 and younger may be issued an operator’s license if their parents agree and they have been issued a graduated operators license. (MCL 257.303(1)(a); 257.308(1); 257.310e(1))

Michigan driving restrictions for 17 year olds

Other than following the traffic laws that all drivers must comply with, there are no Michigan driving restrictions in Michigan for 17 year olds with a Level 3 graduated licensing status. For 17 year old’s with Level 1 or Level 2 statuses, they must follow the restrictions that apply to those levels.

Michigan teen driving laws for 16 year olds

The Michigan teen driving laws for 16 year olds, who will most likely have a Level 2 graduated licensing status, limit the hours they can drive and how many passengers under 21 years of age they can have in the car. Kelsey’s Law prohibits them from using a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. (MCL 257.602c(1))

Can a 16 year old driver have passengers in Michigan?

A 16 year old driver can have passengers in Michigan under certain circumstances. The Level 2 restrictions allow only 1 passenger under 21 unless: (1) the passengers are family; (2) a parent or guardian is in the car; (3) the teenager is working or going to or from work or an authorized activity.

According to the Michigan teen driving laws there is no restriction on the number of passengers who are 21 years of age or older that a 16 year old on a Level 2 graduated licensing status can have in the car. (MCL 257.310e(6)(b))

Michigan level 2 license restrictions

The Michigan level 2 license restrictions under the graduated licensing law prohibit teenagers from operating a motor vehicle between 10 pm and 5 am. The restrictions also prohibit teenagers from operating a motor vehicle with more than one passenger who is under the age of 21. (MCL 257.310e(6))

According to the Michigan teen driving laws the restrictions on operating hours do not apply under the following circumstances:

  • The teenager “is accompanied by a parent or legal guardian or a licensed driver 21 years of age or older designated by the parent or legal guardian.” (MCL 257.310e(6)(a)(i))
  • The teenager “is operating the vehicle in the course of his or her employment or while going to or from employment or while going to or from an authorized activity.” (MCL 257.310e(6)(a)(ii)

According to the Michigan teen driving laws the restrictions on the number of passengers that may be in a Level 2 teenage driver’s vehicle do not apply under the following circumstances:

  • The teenager driving “is accompanied by a parent or legal guardian or a licensed driver 21 years of age or older designated by the parent or legal guardian.” (MCL 257.310e(6)(b)(i))
  • “Any additional passengers who are less than 21 years of age are members of [the teenage driver’s] immediate family.” (MCL 257.310e(6)(b)(ii))
  • The teenager “is operating the vehicle in the course of his or her employment or while going to or from employment or while going to or from an authorized activity.” (MCL 257.310e(6)(b)(iii)

According to the Michigan teen driving laws an “authorized activity” includes school/school-sanctioned activities, sporting events or activities, extracurricular events or activities, vocational training, religious events or activities and “[t]ransporting an individual in need of immediate emergency care or personal protection.” (MCL 257.310e(15))

Can you drive by yourself with a segment 2 permit?

You can drive by yourself with a segment 2 permit, which is also called a Level 2 graduated licensing status. If you choose to have passengers, you can only have one who is under 21, unless certain exceptions apply. There is no limit on the number of passengers who are over 21 years of age. (MCL 257.310e(6))

Michigan teen driving laws on probation period

As with all other drivers who have been previously issued a driver’s license in Michigan, teenagers will be on probation for 3 years. (MCL 257.310d(1))

Parents can restrict teenage drivers

According to the Michigan teen driving laws the operator’s license of a teenager – i.e., a minor driver – can be cancelled by the Secretary of State at the request of the driver’s parents or guardian. Also, a teenager’s graduated licensing status can be reduced – or advancement can be delayed – if his or her parents or guardian ask the Secretary of State to do so. (MCL 257.323b)

A minor is any driver under 18 years of age. Any person 18 and older is considered “an adult” under Michigan law. (MCL 722.52(1))

Need help finding the right car accident lawyer? Call Michigan Auto Law

If you have been injured in a car accident and would like to speak with an experienced injury attorney, call toll free anytime 24/7 at (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our auto accident attorneys. You can also get help from an experienced attorney by emailing [email protected] or you can use the chat feature on our website.

(Sources: Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, Statewide Reports, Historical Information, 5 Year Summary, “5 Year Trends – Drivers in Fatal Crashes”; Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, Statewide Reports, Historical Information, 10 Year Summary, “10 Year Trends – Statewide,” “Teen/Young Adult Drivers [Age 16-20]”)

Michigan Teen Driving Laws: What You Need To Know

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