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How to Get Your California Drivers License

Getting a California drivers license is an exciting time. There are newfound freedoms that only drivers can understand—like the freedom to pull into a drive-through anytime or never have to ask anyone else for rides!

While the process may not be as quick or easy with adult applicants, teenagers in California don't need to worry. So long as you demonstrate confidence, knowledge of the road, and good driving behavior, you'll soon get your hands on a California drivers license.

Take these steps and get on the right track towards earning your full California unrestricted license by age 18.

Step One: The Learners Permit

At the age of 15½, teens in California can apply for a learners permit (also called a provisional instruction permit). All applicants under 17 ½ are required to take a DMV-approved drivers education course, which includes 30 hours of classroom instructions. Everything covered on the exam can be found in your trusty California Driver Handbook. Be sure to review the handbook and take a few practice tests to ace the exam!

Don't forget to bring the following to the DMV:

  • Proof of your date of birth and legal residence. See a list of acceptable documents
  • Proof of Social Security number.
  • Proof of residency in California.
  • Certificate of Completion of a DMV-approved drivers ed course.
  • A completed Form DL 44 available at the DMV, signed by a parent or guardian.
  • An application fee.

Once you have all that you'll get your permit! Now you can prepare for your driving test with practice, practice, and more practice.

However, note the following restrictions: Every time you drive, you must be accompanied by someone who has at least two years of licensed experience and a valid drivers license. That person must be in the front seat next to you and meet one of the requirements:

  • A qualified instructor, parent, guardian, or spouse who is over 25
  • Someone who is 25 or older (in this case, the person must have written permission if the permit holder is under 18)

Step Two: The Drivers License

If you're at least 16, have held a learners permit for at least six months, and completed 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training (including 10 hours at night), you can apply for a provisional license.

Take the Driving Test

Bring the following to your DMV driving test:

Once you pass, you'll receive an interim California drivers license valid for 90 days. Your provisional license will be mailed to you. You can drive solo without supervision, however there are a few restrictions for the first 12 months:

  • You can't drive between the hours of 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • You can't have any passengers under age 20 in your car, unless you're with a licensed driver over 25.

Exceptions to these restrictions are if you to need to drive for:

  • A medical emergency or immediate need of a family member
  • School or work-related necessities
  • Employment purposes

Step Three and Beyond

Once you turn 18, your provisional license will be upgraded to a full California drivers license. Congrats and safe driving!

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