Illinois uses a three-stage licensing process for teens. This system allow teens to gradually gain exposure to complex driving situations, easing them into driving over an extended period of time.
After turning 15, your teen 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 (AAA can help your teen prepare) and a vision test, your teen will be issued an instruction permit.
With an instruction permit, your teen 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 safety 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.
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 safety belts in the back seat.
At age 18, your teen is 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 all instances, all teen drivers and their passengers must wear safety 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.
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.
Consider using a parent-teen driving agreement from the Illinois Secretary of State or one from AAA to help 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.