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Graduating From a Drivers Permit to a Restricted Drivers License

Date posted: 07/06/2012

by Kat Saks on
in License & Endoresements

4236 Graduating From a Drivers Permit to a Restricted Drivers License

The road to obtaining full driving privileges for the first time can be long and winding. Depending on your age and state-dictated rules, you might need a drivers permit and then a restricted drivers license before you can apply for a full driver’s license. This is called the Graduated Driver’s License (GDL) program, and is typically how states handle teens looking to get their first driver’s license.

Learn how to navigate the twists and turns on the road to your first drivers license.

First Stop: Learners Permit

Most states require drivers to obtain a learners permit (also known as an instructional permit or a drivers permit) before they can obtain a full-fledged license – especially teenage drivers. To receive an instructional permit, you will likely need to pass a:

  • Vision test.
  • Road signs test.
  • Written test.

Once you obtain a drivers permit, you will get experience behind the wheel with a fully licensed driver in tow. Most learners permits require new drivers to drive with a fully licensed parent, guardian, or older driver in the passenger seat.

Also, states usually require first-time drivers to hold a drivers permit for a minimum time period before they can apply for a standard drivers license. During this time, you need to log a certain number of daytime and nighttime driving hours, in addition to practicing key driving skills. State rules and regulations vary; refer to our New Driver’s Checklist for state specifics.

Second Stop: Restricted Drivers License

Ready to leave your drivers permit in the dust and drive carefree?

Not so fast.

Once you fulfill the requirements of your learners permit, you apply for a restricted driver license (also known as an intermediate license). That’s because most states using some sort of a graduated driver’s license program won’t hand over full driving privileges right off the bat.

In order to obtain an intermediate license, you will likely need to:

  • Pass a driving skills test (driver’s training is a great way to get behind-the-wheel practice).
  • Pass vision, road sign, and written tests, depending on when you last took them (DMV practice tests offer sample test questions).
  • Provide proof of driving practice. Typically, a parent or guardian verifies your practice hours with a signature, a written statement, or a completed practice driving log.

A graduated drivers license places certain limitations on drivers under 18 years of age. Restrictions can include:

  • Maximum number of passengers.
  • Minimum age for passengers.
  • Curfews.

States usually insist first-time drivers maintain a restricted license for a minimum amount of time. Minimums differ by state, so check with your state motor vehicle agency.

Final Destination: Full Drivers License

Once you successfully maintain a drivers permit, followed by a restricted drivers license, you can apply for a full drivers license.

You might need to retake your vision test, road signs test, written test, or even your driving skills test. Brush up on your test-taking skills and your driving knowledge with a DMV practice test before the big day.

With experience and studying under your belt, you’ll be well prepared to pass the tests and secure a well-deserved full drivers license.

Tell us about the road to your first drivers license in the comments section!

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About Kat Saks

Kat Saks is a Denver-based writer and yoga teacher. She is also Firefly Partners' Client Solutions Manager. She blogs for and shouts safe-driving tips to teens while driving the city streets. More articles by Kat Saks

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