Driver’s Permit Rules for Young and New Drivers

Driver’s permits, also called learner’s permits and provisional drivers licenses, are issued to people between the ages of 15 and 20. In some cases, they are issued to drivers over this age if they have never had a drivers license before. The exact age range covered by a provisional permit differs from one state to another. 

Provisional drivers permits allow the holder to operate a vehicle while learning to drive but restrict the times of day and the number of passengers the driver may carry in the car. Also, direct supervision by an adult driver with a valid license is often required when driving with a provisional license.

The purpose of a provisional license it to assure a young or inexperienced driver has ample time to develop the driving skills and experience he or she needs for the safe operation of a vehicle on any public roadway before being issued a regular license. 

Driver’s Permit Rules Vary by State

Each state has its own rules for issuing drivers permits. Many states now have Graduated Driver’s License (GDL) programs for people under the age of 20 who are applying for a first-time drivers license. 

States with GDL programs usually have three phases of licenses for young drivers:

  • Learning phase requires a specific number of hours of driving while supervised by an adult driver sitting in the front passenger seat. 
  • Intermediate stage allows some unsupervised driving but still requires supervision during higher risk driving situations, such as driving at night or on the freeway. 
  • Full privilege status is the issuance of a regular drivers license for operating a passenger car without restrictions.

Also, many states have other rules for new drivers. For example, a majority of states and Washington, D.C., prohibit all use of a cell phone by drivers in training.

Only Vermont does not restrict driving at night during the intermediate phase of its GDL program. Most states also limit the number of passengers the driver can carry until the person gets their full license. The state of New Jersey is the one state requiring drivers under 21 who do not yet have a full license to have a special decal on the car, indicating they are in driver training. 

Learning the Rules of the Road

There are several ways for new drivers to learn traffic rules and safe driving skills. 

All states publish a Driver Handbook containing the information needed to pass the knowledge skills tests for a drivers license in that state. Driver handbooks are free and can be obtained at any DMV office or downloaded in pdf form from the Internet. Studying one of these booklets is an excellent way of learning traffic rules and regulations for your state. 

Driver’s education courses are also provided by private driver training schools around the country, and some states also have state-sponsored driver education programs. People who are applying for a first-time license who are under age 20 are required to complete a state-approved driver education training course before applying for a full drivers license to learn the rule of the road and safe driving skills.

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