Provisional Driver’s Licenses

provisional driver's licenseDue to the special circumstances surrounding being a new driver, most states have a provisional driver’s license program in place. Provisional driver’s licenses are licenses for teenagers ages 16 to 18 or 21 that come with certain restrictions and limitations. These restrictions vary by state and exist to help teen drivers gain driving experience while curtailing driving behaviors that may result in traffic accidents and/or violations. When followed correctly, the provisions help teen drivers maintain a clean driving record and accumulate no points against their licenses before they reach age 18 or 21.

Provisional driver’s licenses are part of the graduated licensing program states and Washington, DC, have adopted to help ease the transition for new, teenaged drivers.  Since motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teens in the United States, provisional driver’s licenses aim to help reduce distracted driving by limiting the times of day teens may drive alone, regulating who may and may not ride in a vehicle driven by a teen, the circumstances under which a teen may drive, and any other considerations deemed necessary by the state or District of Columbia.

Standard provisional driver’s license restrictions include no driving between the middle of the night and early morning, limitations on the number of under-18 passengers allowed to be transported, guidelines for teens driving to and from school and work, and guidelines for when a parent or guardian must ride with the teen driver.  This provisional license is generally the middle part of a graduated license program that begins with a learner’s or driver’s permit and ends with a regular license. Just as states vary on the particulars of the limitations provided by the provisional driver’s license, they also vary with regard to how long a teen driver must have a permit or how old the driver must be in order to qualify for a provisional license. Typically, teen drivers must have a permit for a minimum of 6 months before they qualify for the provisional license.

The District of Columbia has one of the more restrictive provisional license programs, so teen drivers in Washington, DC, should make sure they know everything that is expected of them. Teen drivers in all parts of the country should also be aware that the end of the provisional driver’s license phase does not necessarily mean the end of driving restrictions. Several states have restrictions in place for the first six to twelve months of driving past the provisional phase.

Driving a vehicle is one of the most treasured privileges in the United States and our country is doing everything it can to make sure that the most at-risk driving population becomes the safest. Provisional driver’s licenses are one way to help make the transition from teenager to adult a little easier without having to resort to using an ignition interlock device for those convicted of underage drinking and driving
, for example. While driving is a wonderful privilege, it is also a major responsibility and we all must do our part.


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