What Does a Teen Need to Do to Get a License?

October 20, 2014

While soon-to-be teen drivers may be in a rush to earn their driver’s license, borrow the family car and hit the road, today’s protocol for getting teens from being student drivers to a fully licensed may be a bit longer and bumpier than the one his or her parents remember. There are a number of steps to follow that vary from state to state, so doing research is critical to drawing up a roadmap you and your teen can both get behind.

Five Steps Towards a Driver’s License

  1. Know your requirements

    The various requirements that need to be met by teen drivers looking to secure their driver’s license vary from state to state. By visiting a state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), or their website, you should be able to gather all the details you need to lay out a plan and a timeline for helping your teen acquire a driver’s license – or if you are a teen – to work with your parents to make sure you’re all on the same page.

  2. Inside the Graduated Driver License Program

    Today all 50 states and Washington, D.C., have employed what’s known as a Graduated Driver License (GDL) program. This multi-step path toward driving privileges comes with many milestones and requires that need to be met before the next can be tackled. Depending on your home state, a GDL program can begin anywhere from age 14 to 16, and includes several periods: the learning stage (supervised driving only), the intermediate stage (includes state-specific times when unsupervised driving is allowed), and the unrestricted stage. Again, it’s very important to review the specific requirements of your state’s program as these can vary in so many different ways.

  3. Earning a learner’s permit

    The first step of a GDL is most often to earn your provisional driving permit, or learner’s permit. This requires passing a written test (which is often taken on a computer), as well as submitting proof of age and identity, and passing a vision test. In some cases, you may bring a valid vision report in lieu of taking a test. You may also need to supply a thumbprint. Be sure to check and see the specific documents you may present to confirm your identity and the amount of the nominal fee you’ll need to pay before arriving at the DMV. One final note, in some states you can waive a written permit test with a driver’s education certificate.

  4. Obtaining a driver’s license

    Where previously some form of driver training was optional before a teen driver took a road test and earned a license, things have changed. Some form of approved driver’s education, both classroom instruction and driver training, is now required everywhere. The actual requirements that teens need to meet before scheduling a road test are state dependent. After passing, and again depending on a number of factors, new teen drivers may carry certain restrictions, such as the hours they can drive and the age of the passengers allowed in their vehicle.

  5. Teen driver insurance

    Before that first solo trip in mom’s station wagon or a teen’s new car, he or she will need the minimum auto insurance required in their state to legally drive. While teen car insurance tends to be pricier due to the drivers’ relative inexperience and high accident rates among younger drivers, there are a number of ways to save on the premiums. The most obvious way is to bundle this with a parent’s policy. Additionally, teen drivers may receive discounts for outstanding academic achievement, i.e., all As or Bs on a report card, taking certain driver safety sources, operating a car with specific safety features, and by maintaining a clean driving record. Some insurance providers even allow teens to drive with a device that monitors driving behavior to see if they qualify for additional safe driving discounts.


Depending on state and age, the road for teen drivers seeking a driver’s license can be a long one. That said, the       purpose behind a GDL and the program’s various requirements is to teach driver skillsets and responsibility,               which keeps teen car insurance rates low and the streets much safer.

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