California Driving Rules
Confused about the laws pertaining to teen drivers? We can help you out with that.
- At age 15, a teen can legally begin driver education and/or training.
- At 15 ½, a teen can apply for a Learner Permit.
- A teen with a driver permit may operate a vehicle only with supervision from a parent, guardian, or licensed, unrestricted driver over the age of 25.
- After six months and 50 hours of supervised driving practice, a teen can take the road test and get a provisional license.
- A provisional license allows teens to drive alone. A provisionally licensed teen may not drive between the hours of 11pm and 5am, and may not transport any passengers under the age of 20, unless supervised by a parent, guardian, or licensed and unrestricted driver over the age of 25.
- After one year of driving with a provisional license, or after the teen driver turns 18, they become a fully licensed and unrestricted driver.
- Teens found to be violating provisional license regulations are subject to fines and/or community service.
- Teens who accrue two points on their record in the first six months of driving may have their license suspended for 30 days. Teens who accrue three or more points may have their license suspended for six months. If these suspensions take place before the driver turns 18, they continue for their full term, even after the driver turns 18.
California's Graduated Driver Licensing program, or GDL, is a response to the high rate of teen deaths in traffic-related incidents. The aim of the GDL is to ensure that dangerous situations are minimized for new drivers, as well as to make sure teens get plenty of practice behind the wheel.
The GDL consists of three steps: Permit, Provisional License, and Full License.
A teen can begin working toward their driver license at 15 years of age. Here, he or she can enroll in driver training and/or driver education including 30 hours of classroom instruction and six hours of behind the wheel training.
With this step in progress, the teen may apply for a learner's permit at the DMV when they turn 15 ½. The permit test will include a written test on driving rules, as well as a vision test.
With a learner's permit in hand, the teen can begin the practice phase of the GDL, which will last at least six months. During this time, the teen driver is allowed to drive only under the supervision of a parent or guardian, or a licensed and unrestricted adult 25 years old or older.
The teen should log hours during this time - he or she will need to clock 50 hours of supervised driving time, including 10 hours after dark.
After a minimum of six months of practice and after finishing the fifty hours, the teen and a guardian can return the DMV with a signed record stating that he or she has completed fifty hours of supervised practice. With that, it's time for the road test.
With a passing score, the teen will receive a provisional driver license! This means the new driver can now drive unsupervised, but there are still some restrictions in place. The driver can't drive between the hours of 11:00pm or 5:00am, or transport anyone under the age of 20, unless accompanied by a licensed and unrestricted adult over the age of 25.
There are exceptions to these restrictions available with a signed note for medical emergencies, school activities, employment necessities, or family transportation.
The provisional license period lasts for one year, or until the teen turns 18
It's important for new drivers to stick to provisional licensing requirements and to make sure to drive safely, as there are special laws in place regarding provisional licenses. A first violation can carry 8 - 16 hours of community service or a $35 fine, with increasing penalties with additional violations.
If a provisional license driver receives two points on their driving record in 12 months, their license will be restricted for 30 days. For three points, there's a 6 month suspension.