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Graduated Drivers License (GDL)

  • In July 1998, California enacted a new law that requires all new teen drivers to obtain drivers licenses through a three-step process. This graduated drivers license law is aimed at reducing the amount of teen auto injuries and fatalities as statistics show that drivers between the ages of 15 and 19 experience a very high number of collisions.

    California teens are first required to go through a supervised period (with a learners permit) during which time the teen must complete 50 hours of supervised driving. Ten of the required hours must be performed at night. A parent or guardian is responsible for certifying in writing that the proper number of hours has been completed.

    The student must also comply with the following restrictions:

    • The student is only allowed to drive with a parent or guardian, an adult over 25 years of age, or with a licensed professional instructor. All supervising drivers must have a current California drivers license.
    • New drivers must enroll in and complete at least 6 hours of a drivers training course.
    • He or she must keep a clean driving record.
    • The Zero Tolerance law applies until you turn 21. This means that student may not drink and drive.

    Note: Effective July 1, 2008, a new law will ban the use of cell-phones (with or without hands-free devices), laptops, pagers, and other electronic devices by anyone under 18 who is driving.

    Once the teen has successfully completed the first step, he or she is free to move on to the next stage. In step two, the student may receive a provisional license if he or she is between 16 and 18 years old and has passed a behind-the-wheel driving test. The new driver must also provide a parent's signature on his or her instruction permit stating that he or she has completed all required driving practice.

    With a provisional license, the new driver is required to abide by the following regulations:

    • For the first 12 months (or until the driver reaches his or her 18th birthday), no passengers under the age of 20 are allowed in the provisional license holder's vehicle unless a licensed driver age 25 or older is present.
    • For the first 12 months, the new driver needs to be accompanied by a driver 25 years of age or older if teenager is driving between the hours of 11 P.M. and 5 A.M. or if the driver is transporting passengers under the age of 20.

    A full-privilege license may be granted after the driver successfully undergoes the first two steps for the proper amount of time and there are no outstanding DMV or court-ordered restrictions, suspensions, or probations on the driver's record.

    Note: This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm all details directly with the CA DMV. You can visit the CA DMV website or call 1-800-777-0133 for general drivers license and registration information.

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