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Provisional License Restrictions for California Teens

Getting a driver's license is an exciting milestone for any teen. As ready as you may feel, just passing the driver's test doesn't mean you are free and clear to drive on your own whenever you want. In many states, once you have passed the driver's test, you will be given a provisional driver license. California is one of the states that has a graduated driver license system. This article will give you all the information you need about provisional licenses in California so you know what to expect and what restrictions you will have.

What is a provisional driver license?

A California provisional driver license is the next step in a graduated driver license system. It is issued after the learner's permit and before a regular, unrestricted license. Most provisional licenses are issued between the ages of 16 to 18 years of age. Teens will be allowed to drive alone when they have a provisional license, but there will be specified times and other conditions and restrictions that must be adhered to. These restrictions are put in place to reduce potential problems that a new driver could experience due to "moving too fast" in the driving process.

What types of restrictions come with the California provisional license?

With your provisional driver license, you will be able to drive by yourself between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. However, one of the California provisional license restrictions is that you are not allowed to transport passengers under the age of 20 at any time for the first 12 months unless there is a licensed parent, guardian, or other adult in the car with you who is over the age of 25.

You are also not permitted to drive between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. unless there is a licensed parent or guardian or another adult over the age of 25 years in the car with you.

With a provisional license, you are not allowed to be employed in a job that requires you to drive a vehicle. Once you turn 18, the provisional license and its restrictions end and you can drive as a regular licensed driver.

The provisional driver license restrictions apply to you if you are under the age of 18 and you got a provisional driver license on or after January 1, 2006, and they will last for 12 months from the time you are given the provisional license.

Are there exceptions to the California provisional license restrictions?

There are some exceptions to the California provisional license restrictions that are in place. To be exempt from these restrictions, a written note, signed by the appropriate person, must be kept with you at all times to explain the necessity of not adhering to the restrictions and the date that you will be able to adhere to the restrictions again, if applicable. Examples include:

  • A medical necessity where there aren't any alternative driving options available. The note needs to be signed by your physician and it must contain the medical reason, diagnosis, and when that necessity will no longer be in place.
  • School or a school-related activity. Have the note signed by your school principal or dean, or someone the principal has authorized to sign on their behalf.
  • Employment or job-related necessity and the need to operate your vehicle as part of your employment. Have your note signed by your employer, verifying your employment and job description that requires the use of your vehicle.
  • If you are emancipated, you do not need to have a signed note but you need to have already been declared emancipated and have provided the DMV with the form called "Proof of Financial Responsibility" (also known as an SR 1P), which takes the place of the guarantors' signatures.
  • If it is necessary for you or a family member. In this case, the note needs to be signed by your parent or legal guardian.

Although it may feel a little frustrating to have these restrictions in place, they are put there for your own safety while you are getting used to driving on a regular basis alone. It is very important that you follow the restrictions that are part of your provisional driver license so you do not incur any penalties or repercussions. If you must break any of the restrictions due to reasons that are on the exception list above, make sure that you have the appropriately signed note in your possession.

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