Teen Driver Laws

About Teen Driver Laws

Because teen drivers lack a significant amount of driving experience and exhibit risky driving behavior, their risk as a group is higher than drivers of any other age group who have more experience behind the wheel.

In an effort to reduce the number of teen drivers and passengers involved in auto accidents, California passed a provisional license law that went into effect July 1998. Commonly referred to as the Graduated Drivers License law, the law revised licensing procedures for teen drivers.

According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, California witnessed a 23 percent reduction in 16-year-old drivers involved in crashes or more than 8,000 accidents prevented between 1998 and 2006. The IIHS estimates that without the Graduated Driver License law, more than 35,000 16-year-old drivers would have been involved in crashes during the eight-year span.

California's Graduated Driver License law is a two-step, phased-in approach beginning when the driver is at least 15 1/2 years old. 

Step One: Instructional Permit


15 1/2 years old

Vision Exam

Knowledge Test

Form DL 44 

Parent/Guardian Signature

Complete a state-approved driver's education course

Issued For:

6 months


Accompanied by a licensed driver 25+ at all times

Step Two: Provisional License


16 years old

Held instructional permit for at least 6 months

Provide proof of completion of driver education and driver training

Parent/Guardian(s) and instructor(s) signature(s) verifying completion of 50 hours of driving practice (10 hours must be at night)

Pass Driving Test

Issued For: 

Until age 18 (provisional part of license ends)


No driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. during the first 12 months of being licensed

Cannot transport passengers under 20 years unless accompanied by a licensed parent/guardian, California driver 25+, or certified driving instructor

The procedures for obtaining a driver license for those under the age of 18 are covered in Special Section - Minors in the California Driver Handbook. Review Special Section - Minors for additional information on the Graduated Driver License Program.

Teen Risk Factors
Belt Up
In 2010, the use of seat belts in passenger vehicles saved 12,546 lives.
Slow Down in Work Zones
Work-zone crashes kill a teenager every 3 days.
Don't Text & Drive
Distracted-driving crashes kill 8 people every day.
Helpful Links