The process for getting a driver’s license has a lot of common ground between states. However, there are slight differences for each state. It can all be confusing if you are going through the process with your teen driver for the first time. Here is a quick overview of the different processes each state has in common and how they are different.
Finding Common Ground
While a guide for each state would be very long, here is what Washington, California, Colorado, Ohio, South Carolina, and Florida all have in common.
- Must be at least 16 years old
- Before licensing, teens must have a learning permit that has limited use to practice with a licensed parent, guardian, or approved adult in the passenger seat.
- Pass a vision screening
- Permission from parents or legal guardians
- Provide documentation with birth certificate, social security number, and residency in the state
- Complete a teen drivers education course
- Pass a written exam of the laws from an approved location
- Pass a driving test at an official location
- Have a photo taken and pay licensing fees
- Stipulations on driving conditions during the first 6-12 months of licensing
These provide a great foundation for each state to build off. Here are some of the differences each of these states have added to their licensing processes.
Permit drivers must complete at least 40 hours of daylight, including 10 hours of night driving with someone who’s been licensed for 5 years or more. To get a license, the person cannot have been convicted of any traffic violations within 6 months of applying or alcohol or drug offenses while holding an instruction permit. Licensing is also available online for new drivers.
Stipulations: Under 18 gets an intermediate driver license. First 6 months, no passengers under 20 except immediate family members. Next 6 months. No more than 3 passengers under 20 who aren’t immediate family. Nighttime driving not allowed between 1 and 5 am unless with a driver 25+. Only exceptions, agricultural purposes and transporting for farm products or supplies. No cell phones while driving, even hands-free except in an emergency.
Signatures by all parent(s)/guardians(s) with custody are required to get a permit and a license. All these signatures are also required to verify that the new driver completed 50 hours of practice driving with 10 hours being at night. To get a driver’s license, the individual must be at least 16 and have had their permit at least 6 months.
Restrictions: During the first year, there is no driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., drive with any passengers under 20 years old unless they are immediate family members or a licensed adult 25 years old or older is in the car. Exceptions can be made for work, school, or medical reasons with an official signed form. Drivers under 18 years old may not use cellphones or wireless devices while driving, even if it is hands-free.
To get a driver’s permit, it is required to take a 30-hour drivers education class. If the student is 15 years and 6 months, they may opt for a 4 hours driver awareness class instead. Drivers under 18 years old must have a permit for at least 12 months and be 16 years old before taking their licensing test. Driving logs must be submitted with a required 6 hours behind the wheel with an instructor.
Restrictions: No passengers under 21 for first 6 months and only one passenger under 21 at a time for the next 6 months unless they are an immediate family member or a licensed adult over 21 years old is in the car too. Exceptions are made for medical emergencies. Everyone in the vehicle must also wear their own seat belt. Driving between midnight and 5 a.m. is now allowed the first year unless an adult is in the car or it is to work or school with a signed and dated form.
Before getting a license, the applicant must complete 50 hours of driving with 10 of those hours at night. To drive with a permit, anyone under 16 may only drive with a parent or legal guardian. Once the driver is 16, they may also complete their practice hours with any licensed driver 21 years of age or older in the passenger seat. Driver’s education courses must be 24 hours classroom or online instruction and 8 hours of driving time. If there are any traffic offenses during the first 6 months of driving, a parent must always ride in the passenger seat for 6 months or until the driver reaches 17 years of age.
Restrictions: During the first 12 months, no driving between 12-6 am unless with a parent or if it is for work or school with documentation. There is also no driving with more than one non-family without a parent or legal guardian in the car. After the first 12 months of licensing, no driving between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. with the same exceptions. No phones or mobile devices are allowed for use. Multiple traffic convictions before 18 may equal suspension and any involving alcohol means a 6-month suspension.
All new drivers require having a permit for 180 full days before applying for a license. Each must complete 40 hours of driving with 10 at night. Practice must be done with a driver age 21 or older with one-year driving experience sitting in the front seat. To complete the driving test, drivers must bring their own car with a proper title, registration, insurance, and safety inspected vehicle. Teen drivers must have good school attendance to get a license.
Restrictions: New drivers can only drive alone between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. or 8 p.m. during daylight savings time. If there is a licensed driver 21 years old or older, driving is allowed until midnight. Between midnight and 6 a.m., driving is only allowed if a parent/guardian accompanies. Full privileges are granted at 16 if, within one year of having a license, there have been no traffic offenses or at-fault accidents.
Permit drivers must complete 50 hours of driving time with 10 hours being at night. They must be accompanied by a responsible adult who is at least 21 years old. During the first three months, driving is only allowed during daylight hours. The next three months, they can drive until 10 p.m. To get a license, the driver must have a learner’s license for at least a year or reach 18 years of age. There can be no moving violations from one year of the learner’s license date of issuance. The driving test is done in a registered, insured car that has passed inspection.
Restrictions: Florida has graduated licensing laws, which means there is more structure that gradually builds driving privileges. For newly licensed drivers, no driving between 11 pm and 6 am unless it is to work or with driver at least 21 years old in the passenger seat. Once 17 years old, no driving between 1 am to 5 am unless driving to work or accompanied by an adult at least 21 years old.
Having a driver’s license is a great privilege that has specific responsibilities attached to it. No matter what state you are completing driving lessons and getting a license, each driver must practice safe driving, follow the laws, and be careful. Any restrictions added have been to help protect many of the common problems that many new teen drivers face.