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Graduated Drivers License (GDL)

  • Risk-taking behavior and lack of driving experience often proves fatal for teen drivers. Almost a quarter of all teenagers is either involved in traffic accidents or receives a traffic violation ticket during their first year of driving.

    To prevent this from happening, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has implemented a set of laws that are similar to the graduated drivers license (GDL) laws in other states. These regulations are called upon to answer the problem of high accident rates among young drivers.

    These laws apply to every license applicant who is under 19 years of age and divide the process of obtaining a drivers license into two general phases outlined below. Each phase is designed to gradually teach young drivers safe driving techniques.

    • General Steps to Obtaining Your Drivers License

      1. In Virginia, if you are under 19, you will need to complete a DMV-approved Virginia drivers education course.
      2. Once you've completed drivers education, the next step toward achieving a drivers license in Virginia is applying for a learners permit. A learners permit can be awarded to any teenager who is at least 15 years and 6 months old who has successfully completed the knowledge examination at the DMV. The permit must be held for at least nine months. Your learners permit comes with the following limitations:

        • You can only driver when a licensed driver at least 21 year of age is seated beside you. The driver accompanying you may be 18 years of age if he or she is your legal guardian, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, step-brother or step-sister.
        • The driver accompanying you must hold a valid drivers license, be alert and able to assist you and be legally permitted to drive.
      3. If you are under 19, you must complete 14 periods of in-car instruction with a licensed driving school instructor as part of your Virginia drivers education program. You must also complete at least 40 hrs of supervised practice driving, 10 of which must be completed after sunset.
        Note: if you are a homeschooled student, your parent can act as the instructor for the 14 periods of in-car instruction once they have received a Letter of Authorization from the DMV.
      4. If the driver fulfils the above requirements, he or she will be granted a full drivers license that allows unsupervised driving. However, the full drivers license will still have some limitations for one year after the date of issuance.
    • Learners Permit and Drivers License Restrictions

      The following restrictions will apply to any driver with a Virginia learners permit or drivers license:

      • Cell Phone Restrictions: If you are under 18, you may not operate a motor vehicle in Virginia while using a cellular telephone or other wireless communication device.
      • Curfew Restrictions: If you are under 18 and hold a drivers license, you cannot drive from midnight to 4 A.M. If you hold a drivers license, you may drive during these hours only:

        • In case of an emergency; When traveling to and from work or a school-sponsored event; When accompanied by a parent or other adult acting in place of a parent;
        • When responding to an emergency call as a volunteer firefighter or rescue squad personnel.
      • Passenger Restrictions: If you are under 18, you may not carry more than one passenger under age 18 for the first year after receiving your drivers license. Passenger restrictions do not apply to family members. After you have held your license for one year, you may carry only three passengers under age 18 until you reach age 18.

    You can read more about the Virginia drivers license instructions in detail on our site.

    Note: This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm all details directly with the VA DMV. You can visit the VA DMV website or contact the DMV directly by phone or email.

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