To get your driver’s license in California, you’ll move through three licensing stages. As you progress, you’ll also need your parents’ permission at each step.
When you turn 15 1/2, you may apply for a learner’s permit in the state of California. You and a parent or guardian need to visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles
office and bring a state-certified copy of your birth certificate. Once you pass the traffic law, road sign and vision tests, you’ll be given your learner’s permit. You must also provide proof that you have completed driver education, or are enrolled in driver training and education.
With a learner’s permit, you may practice with a parent, guardian, spouse, driving instructor or an adult 25 years of age or older. These drivers must have a valid California driver’s license. You must complete both classroom driver education and formal behind-the-wheel training. You must also complete 50 hours of supervised driving practice, including 10 hours at night. Your parent or guardian must certify in writing that these hours have been completed.
When you turn 16, have had your learner’s permit for at least six months and have completed the learner’s permit stage, you can apply for a provisional driver license. You must pass a behind-the wheel driving test and provide proof of practice driving time. Legal guardians must accompany you to the DMV and sign the application form, or their signature must be notarized on the form.
When you have a provisional license, you’re allowed to drive without a parent, but you must follow certain restrictions to help keep you safe. For the first 12 months (or until you turn 18) California does not allow you to drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. — some of the riskiest driving hours for all drivers and especially teens. Exceptions are permitted for certain circumstances. For the first 12 months (or until you turn 18) California teens cannot transport passengers under age 20, unless a licensed driver 25 or older is present. Teen drivers and all passengers are required to wear safety belts. You must maintain a clean driving record. Drivers in California may never use a hand-held phone or text while driving, and drivers under 18 are prohibited from driving and using a wireless phone even when equipped with a hands-free device.
At age 18, a provisional license becomes a full license barring DMV or court-ordered restrictions, suspensions or probation.
For more information on the licensing process, visit the California Department of Motor Vehicles.