Licensing & State Laws

Illinois’ multi-stage licensing process allows teens to gradually gain exposure to complex driving situations, easing them into driving over an extended period of time. The instruction permit and initial driver’s license are key steps.

INSTRUCTION PERMIT – 15

After turning 15, teens may apply for an instruction permit with the written consent of a parent or legal guardian. Upon enrolling in an approved driver education course, passing a written driver’s knowledge test and a vision test, your teen will be issued an instruction permit.

With an instruction permit, teens may only drive under the supervision of a licensed parent or adult age 21 or older, who must be riding in the front passenger seat. The number of passengers is limited to one in the front seat and the number of seat belts in the back seat. Your teen is required to practice driving for at least 50 hours, including 10 hours at night, before moving on to the initial licensing phase. Illinois does not allow teens with instruction permits to drive between 10 p.m.-6 a.m., Sunday-Thursday nights or between 11 p.m.-6 a.m., Friday-Saturday nights.

INITIAL DRIVER’S LICENSE – 16

When your teen turns 16 and has driven conviction-free on an instruction permit for at least nine months, your teen can apply for an initial driver’s license. You or a legal guardian must certify that your teen has completed a minimum of 50 hours of practice driving, including 10 hours at night. Successful completion of a state-approved driver education course must also be provided plus proof of qualified enrollment in or graduation from an accredited high school or GED program (certain exclusions apply). You can either accompany your teen to the Driver Services facility to sign the application form or have your signature notarized on an authorized form. Your teen must pass a behind-the-wheel test before an initial license is issued.

A teen with an initial license is allowed to drive alone, but must follow certain restrictions. Illinois does not allow teens with initial licenses to drive between 10 p.m.-6 a.m., Sunday-Thursday nights or between 11 p.m.-6 a.m., Friday-Saturday nights — some of the riskiest driving hours for teens. For the first 12 months of licensing or until your teen turns 18, whichever comes first, the number of passengers is limited to one person under age 20, unless the additional passenger is a sibling, step-sibling, child or step-child of the driver. After this period, the number of passengers is limited to one in the front seat and the number of seat belts in the back seat.

FULL LICENSE – 18

At age 18, teens are eligible for a full, unrestricted license if he or she has held an initial license for at least six months without being convicted of any moving violations.

In Illinois, everyone ages 18-20 who did not attend driver’s education, must complete a 6-hour driver training and education course before applying for a driver’s license. These courses are offered by driving schools certified by the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. For more information about these courses, visit cyberdriveIllinois.com.

In all instances, all teen drivers and their passengers must wear seat belts. Additionally, teens under the age of 19 are prohibited from using a cell phone or any type of hand-held communication device — including texting — while driving, except for calling 911 or other emergency purposes.

A parent-teen driving agreement can help you enforce licensing rules that the state and your family set. An agreement helps you and your teen understand the rules of the road and sends a clear message that driving is an earned privilege that your family takes seriously.

The Illinois Secretary of State Office is in charge of licensing for all drivers in Illinois. All written exams and behind-the-wheel tests required for a driver’s license can be performed at any Driver Services facility. High schools participating in the Cooperative Driver Testing Program (CDTP) may also conduct licensing tests.

Please check in advance for locations, hours, fees, plus acceptable forms of identification your teen will need to present when applying for each stage of licensing. Study materials to help your teen get ready for the exams are also available. Keep in mind that as a parent or legal guardian, Illinois law authorizes you to withdraw consent to drive for your child under age 18. This procedure begins with a notarized letter to the Illinois Secretary of State Office.

Remind your teen that police can and will enforce all requirements on seat belt use, drinking and driving, and other laws. Breaking the law can lead to fines, license suspension and other penalties.

  • If stopped by the police, teens should present a valid license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
  • Whether stopped as a driver or passenger, teens should always cooperate and be respectful with law enforcement.
  • If in any kind of situation involving law enforcement, teens should talk to their parents about it, because this can create a learning experience.

 If your teen gets a ticket or is involved in a crash, it could lead to a court appearance. Judges deal seriously and directly with teen traffic violations. They can assess fines and suspend driving privileges for traffic offenses – even for a first offense, depending on the type of violation. In Illinois, under certain circumstances, parents must accompany teens to court appearances, particularly cases involving court supervision.

Graduated driver’s licensing (GDL) violations

Traffic violations related to GDL restrictions can range from fines set by the court to suspension or revocation of your driver’s license or driving privileges.

Driving under the influence in Illinois

In Illinois, drivers with a blood alcohol limit of .08 or more can be charged with a driving under the influence (DUI) violation. While the penalties are severe, they’re even more punitive for drivers under the age of 21.

Under 21 DUI

  • A first DUI conviction can result in revocation of driving privileges for a minimum of two years.
  • A first-time DUI offender under age 18 on a statutory summary suspension is not eligible for a Monitoring Device Driving Permit (MDDP).
  • Remedial education and/or retesting may be required prior to reinstatement of driving privileges for those under age 18.

Illinois alcohol possession or consumption law

A person under the age of 21 who is found guilty or granted court supervision for a violation of state law or local ordinance relating to illegal consumption, possession, purchase or receipt of alcohol, regardless of whether a vehicle was involved, will face a loss of driving privileges, in addition to any fine imposed.

  • Court supervision for any of these offenses can result in a three-month suspension of driving privileges.
  • A first conviction can result in a six-month suspension of driving privileges. Subsequent convictions can result in an extended suspension or revocation of driving privileges.

Driver, passenger and child passenger seat belt laws

Here’s a summary of the passenger restraint laws in Illinois:

  • All passengers must wear a seat belt at all times regardless of their location in the vehicle.
  • Any driver transporting a child under age 8 is responsible for securing the child in an appropriate child restraint system for his or her age and weight.
  • Children over 40 pounds may be transported in the back seat of a vehicle with only a lap belt if the back seat is not equipped with a lap and shoulder belt.

Failure to comply with these laws can result in fines set by the court and possible suspension of certain driving privileges.

Illinois speed limit laws

Unless otherwise posted, the speed limits on Illinois roadways are as follows:

  • Rural interstates: 70mph
  • Urban interstates: vary between55 mph and 70mph depending on location
  • Other limited access roads: 65mph
  • Other roads: 55 mph

Violations of Illinois speed limit laws can result in fines set by the court and possible suspension of driving privileges.

Speed Zones More Than 70 mph:

  • 1 Point: 6-10 mph above limit
  • 3 Points: 11-15 mph above limit
  • 5 Points: 16-20 mph above limit
  • 9 Points: 21-25 mph above limit
  • 12 Points: 26-35 mph above limit
  • 15 Points: More than 35 mph above limit

Drivers under age 18 will have their driving privileges cancelled after accumulating 6 or more points.