Teen Licensing and Driving Laws in Pennsylvania

Under Pennsylvania’s Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) law, teens go through a three-stage process to receive a driver’s license. The program helps teens gain driving confidence. Here's everything you need to know about Pennsylvania's teen driving laws. 

The Steps to Becoming a Teen Driver in Pennsylvania

If you are 16 years old, you’re ready to start the process of getting a Pennsylvania driver's license. 

Step 1: Get a Learner’s Permit

In Pennsylvania, teens need a medical examination to verify they are healthy enough to drive.

Once you're cleared, visit your local PennDOT licensing center to apply for your learner’s permit. If you pass the knowledge (written) and vision tests, you’ll be issued your learner’s permit. It's valid for one year. If you’re under 18, a parent or guardian will have to go with you to sign a consent form (DL-180TD).

Your learner’s permit allows you to practice driving, but it comes with certain rules. 

  • An accompanying supervising driver. A licensed driver at least 21 years old or a licensed spouse or guardian who is at least 18 years old must ride with you each time you drive.

  • Minimum number of hours of driving experience. You must accumulate at least 65 hours of driving experience, including ten hours of night driving and five hours of driving in bad weather.

  • Curfew. You may not drive between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., except for employment or to volunteer or perform a charitable service. In this case, keep the relevant documentation with you at all times.

  • Passenger limitation. If you’re under the age of 18, the number of passengers in the vehicle may not exceed the number of seat belts in the car. 

Step 2: Apply for a Junior Driver’s License

You can take the road test after six months and with at least 65 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction.

Many of the same restrictions of the learner's permit also apply to the junior driver’s license. Also, you may not have more than one passenger under age 18 who is not a member of your household without a parent or guardian in the vehicle. If you remain accident-free for six months, you can carry up to three passengers with a parent present.

Step 3: Graduate to an Unrestricted Driver’s License

At age 18, teen drivers may apply for the unrestricted license that grants them full driving privileges. 

If you’re under the age of 18, you can graduate to the unrestricted license early, provided you meet the following requirements.

  • You’ve maintained a clean driving record with no crash or traffic violations in the past 12 months.

  • You’ve completed a state-approved teen driver's education course. Submit your course certificate of completion along with the DL-59 form and an affidavit of consent from a parent and guardian to PennDOT.

Consequences for Teens who Break Driving Laws

Once you’ve completed the graduated driver’s license program, you become a legitimate Pennsylvania driver. Congratulations! But before you hit the road, keep the following rules of the road in mind as a young driver.

  • Traffic violations. You can get your permit suspended for 90 days (or until age 18) if you get six traffic violation points or drive 26 mph over the speed limit.

  • Insurance. Teen drivers must be insured. Pennsylvania requires all vehicles to meet the state’s minimum insurance requirements. If you drive without proof of insurance, you could face a $300 fine and a three-month license suspension.

  • Driving under the influence. Pennsylvania takes a zero-tolerance approach to underage DUIs. If you’re under 21 and drive with a blood-alcohol level of 0.02% or more, you face an 18-month license suspension. Fines range from $500 to $5,000. You could also spend up to six months in jail. Even if you were not drinking, being in possession of alcohol in your vehicle is enough to land you in trouble. 

When you join the nine million licensed drivers in Pennsylvania, keep safety top of mind. Adhere to the rules of the road and consider taking a defensive driving course to further enhance your driving skills. A confident driver is a safer driver. 

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