African American father teaching his son how to drive.

A Teen’s Guide on How to Get Your California Driver License

If you are a teenager between the ages of 15.5-18 (or the parent of a teen ages 15.5-18), you are at an important stage in life: you are learning how to get your California driver license and there is a lot to learn! From gathering the necessary documents, signing up for classes, and taking your driver test, there are several steps you need to know in order for the process to go smoothly. Here is a quick guide for teens on how to get your California driver license:

Get Your Instruction Permit

If you are between the ages of 15.5-18 years old, the first step to getting your California Driver License is to get a Provisional Instruction Permit. This will allow you to drive a car with certain restrictions, or “provisions.” You must have your permit for 6 months or longer before you can take your driving test to get your driver’s license. In order to apply for your instruction permit, you need the following documents:

  • Completed application for driver permit with parent’s signature
  • Proof of Social Security number
  • Original birth certificate
  • Proof of identity and legal presence in the U.S.
  • Proof of residency in California

Once you have all the paperwork, you’ll need to go to the DMV and present it. You will have to pass a vision test and a written exam on the basic rules of the road. The DMV personnel will also take your photo and ask for your thumbprint. After you complete all this and pay the application fee, you will receive your permit. Note: If you are ages 18 or older, you are not required to have Provisional Instruction Permit in order to apply for your driver license.

Complete Driver Education

Once you have an instruction permit, you become eligible to sign up for driver’s education. Teens that are between the ages of 15.5-18 are required to complete 25 hours of instruction in the classroom and 6 hours of behind the wheel teen driving lessons.

You must hold your instruction permit for at least six months before you can apply for a driver’s license, but you can choose to renew it if you need more time to complete your required hours of instruction. Remember, you must have an adult age 25 years or older with a valid California driver’s license in the car with you at all times when driving with an instruction permit.

Pass the Driving Test

When you feel comfortable with your driving ability, and after you’ve held the permit for at least six months, you can take the driving test. And yes, of course, you’ll need more documents. You will need:

  • Proof of vehicle registration
  • Proof of current auto insurance
  • Instruction Permit, signed by your parent/guardian and the instructor who administered the driver training course
  • driver ed certificate

Once you’ve presented all of your documents at the DMV, the instructor will go with you to take the driving test. If you pass, the DMV will issue you a paper driver’s license until the hard copy has been processed. If you don’t pass the driving test the first time, you can take it again.

Hit the Road

After you pass your driver license test, you are ready to hit the road! However, there are still two important provisions you must follow for your first year of driving with your license: You need to have an adult ages 25 years or older with a valid California driver license in the car with you if (1) you drive between the hours of 11:00 PM and 5:00 AM, or (2) you carry passengers in the car with you that are under 20 years of age. Once you have been licensed for one year, or turn 18, you don’t need to worry about these restrictions anymore. Enjoy your well-deserved freedom, and always drive safely!

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