If you are 16 years old, you can apply for a Level One learner's permit. The process for you, as a first-time and teen driver, is a little longer and more complicated than the process for older drivers because you need to go through the Graduated Driver's License Program, which basically means you'll need to keep your permit a bit longer.
Qualifying for a Driver's License
To qualify for a Class D operator's license, which begins as a Level One learner's permit, you must meet certain criteria:
- 16 years old to age 18
- Pass one of Delaware's certified driver education courses
- Present the Blue Certificate from the driver education course
Applying for a Driver's License
Delaware offers several classes of driver licenses. However, you will apply for the Class D because drivers under 18 are not eligible for a Commercial Driver's License. The Class D operator's license will allow you to drive a car, van, station wagon, or pickup truck―vehicles less than 26,000 pounds loaded.
Complete the driver's license application available at a Delaware DMV office. Because of the two-step process, you will first be issued a Level One learner's permit. Still, the form you use when getting a learner's permit is the same one used for driver's license applications. The $12.50 application fee covers your learner's permit and your subsequent driver's license.
If you are a new resident, you may be eligible for a Class D operator's license or a Level One learner's permit, depending on how long you've had your out-of-state license. Of course, you must also meet the same criteria as long-time Delaware teens.
The Sponsorship Concept
As a teen driver, you must have a sponsor sign your driver's license application. The Delaware DMV uses the sponsor program to partner you, your parents, or another responsible adult, and the DMV as it relates to your driving activity.
Choosing a sponsor is very important and the DMV has some basic guidelines for you to follow. The sponsor will have a lot of influence when it comes to your driver's license. In fact, if the sponsor pulls their sponsorship your driver's license can be suspended depending on the circumstances.
Typically, the sponsor is:
- a parent living with you
- a legal guardian
- an employer
Bring your sponsor with you when you complete your original driver's license application because the sponsor must sign in the presence of the DMV licensing official. If your sponsor just can't go with you, take the application to your sponsor and have them get their signature notarized.
The sponsor can withdraw their sponsorship anytime during the 12 months you carry a learner's permit. Be careful and be safe, because if you don't impress your sponsor and they withdraw their signature, you will not be able to get the Class D operator's license one year after your learner's permit was issued.
The testing process is the same for teen drivers as it is for all other license applicants.
Eye Screening Exam
The minimum requirement is 20/40 with both eyes. If you wear contacts or glasses, use these when taking your test. The restriction for corrective lenses will be on your driver's license and you must wear your eye glasses or contact lenses whenever you are driving.
If you fail the eye screening exam, you must get an eye exam from a doctor so that your vision can be corrected to the minimum requirement before you retake the eye screening exam.
The written test is designed to test your knowledge of road signs, rules of the road, vehicle safety, and equipment inspection. The Drivers Manual has most of the information you need to know to pass the written exam.
You will have resources from the Delaware Driver Education Course and any driver training work you completed. Study the traffic rules such as when to pass, how closely to follow, and how to maneuver through an intersection.
There may also be questions about drunk driving and drugs because many fatal accidents involve alcohol and drugs. Safety is the prime concern of the DMV and you can expect the exam to test your safety knowledge.
You must pass the written test before you are eligible for the road test. If you fail the written test, wait 10 days then show up for a retest. In the meantime, study the Drivers Manual and other information sources.
The road test is a 30-minute ride with you driving and a licensing official analyzing your driving skills. You may be nervous; listen carefully and use the skills you have been practicing as a Level One Learner.
In addition to a registered vehicle, you will need to bring your learner's permit, an insurance card (if the vehicle is registered in Delaware), and a licensed adult driver.
You will be tested on how well you handle the vehicle, including:
- Vehicle safety inspection
- Parallel parking
- Turning, signaling, and intersections
- Passing and lane changes
- Following distance
If you handle the vehicle in a safe, courteous, responsible manner you will probably pass the road test. Once you have passed, your driver's license will be issued with any necessary restrictions or endorsements you've applied for.
Restrictions for Teen Drivers
All teen drivers are subject to a few general restrictions. In the first six months you must have a licensed adult driver in the passenger seat. There are restrictions on the hours you can drive with the intent of keeping inexperienced drivers off the roads late at night. Lastly, you must have only enough passengers that you have safety belts for―remember, the front passenger seat is already occupied by an adult driver.
Passing the tests and obtaining your driver's license is only the beginning. You may have studied hard to get your Class D operator's license, but now you must consistently maintain safe driving habits to keep it. Delaware has a strict point system that can result in your license suspension if you violate the Delaware Code.
If you still have questions about getting your driver's license, check out the Driver's License Under 18 FAQs posted by the Delaware DMV. Calling the DMV or stopping by to get your questions answered is always a good idea, too.