Applying for a New License (Teen Drivers) in Illinois
Age Take Driver's Education Apply for a Permit Complete 50 hours Driving Practice Apply for a License age 15 X X Age 16-17 X X X X 18 and Older X
Graduated Driver Licensing Program
Illinois has a program known as the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program to help reduce the number of accidents among young drivers. Instead of immediately becoming fully licensed drivers after taking driver education and passing the written and road tests, young drivers are subject to many initial restrictions that gradually ease as they get older and become more competent drivers.
Teens can start the driver's license process at age 15, when they may obtain a learner's permit. There are three steps to the program:
- At age 15, teens can apply for a permit. At this point, the teen must be enrolled in a driver's education course.
- After completing 50 hours of practice, drivers Age 16-17 years of age who have completed driver's education programs and passed their driver's license exams can apply for an initial license.
- Drivers 18-20 can have a full license, but they are still subject to some restrictions that don't apply to drivers 21 and older.
You can complete a driver's education course through any public or private high school as well as many local community colleges.
New to the State
The state will accept driver's education programs from out of state as proof you're ready to apply for your license. Simply bring your permit, your completed driver education certificate, and proof of Illinois residency to the SOS office when you're ready to apply for your license.
All first-time teen drivers should apply for a provisional permit. This is necessary to obtain behind-the-wheel experience before taking the driving test.
- Enroll in an approved driver's education course.
- Review the driver handbook to familiarize yourself with rules of the road and safe driving procedures.
- Take a practice test to measure your knowledge of the material.
- Be ready to pass a vision test.
- Be prepared to take the knowledge test. You can take the test three times during the one-year period following the date you pay the processing fee.
- Have payment for the $20 processing fee.
- Visit your nearest SOS office with a parent or guardian. Your parent or guardian is required to sign the necessary application form.
- If you pass both tests, you'll get a permit that is valid for two years.
For additional information about the process for obtaining a provisional permit, please see our page on Drivers Permits.
Illinois Provisional Permit Driving Restrictions
All teens driving on an instruction permit are subject to a curfew until age 17. Some areas may have more restrictive curfews, but the general state curfew forbids driving after 10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., and after 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The state makes no exclusions, and it doesn't matter if the parent is in the car.
The purpose of a provisional driving permit is to allow teen drivers to practice behind the wheel under close supervision. During this period, teens must complete 50 hours of supervised behind-the-wheel time. Keep in mind that this is in addition to practice obtained through working with a driver training instructor. Additionally, a minimum of 10 hours of this driving must be done at night.
To keep track of driving practice hours, teens should use the 50-Hour Certification Log.
You may apply for an Illinois license if the following is true:
- You are Age 16-17 years of age.
- You have completed an approved driver's education program.
- A minimum period of nine months has passed from the date of receiving your instruction permit.
- Your parent or guardian is willing to sign a form giving consent for you to obtain your license.
1) Complete Paperwork
Provide proof of written signature, date of birth, Social Security number, and residency. You can find a table listing acceptable documents for each of these items on the SOS website.
2) Take a Driving Test
You must take a driving test to prove that you are able to safely operate a motor vehicle. Although you don't need to make an appointment, keep in mind that the driving examiner won't allow you to complete your test if it's dark outside or weather conditions are poor. If needed, you can retake the test up to three times within the year after paying your fee, without having to pay the fee again.
If you do not want to complete a driving test at your local SOS office, consider participating in the Cooperative Driver Testing Program. This program allows drivers education instructors to administer the driving test as part of their educational programs. If you successfully pass the test, you'll get a waiver that you can use when applying for your license.
3) Pay License Fee
The fee to receive your license is $10. However, you may not need to pay an additional fee if you receive your license before your instruction permit expires.
4) Obtain a Provisional License
After you obtain your provisional driver's license, keep in mind the state places the following restrictions on teen drivers:
- Licensed drivers under age 19 generally may not have more than one passenger under age 20 in the vehicle with them at any time. Exceptions: a sibling, step-sibling, child, or stepchild of the driver.
- Drivers under age 19 cannot use a cell phone while driving except "in emergencies." Bear in mind that this means major emergencies, not simply being late or needing to call ahead for take-out food.
- Drivers under age 19 and all passengers in the car 19 and under must wear seat belts.
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