Licensing & State Laws

Minnesota’s multi-stage licensing process allows teens to gradually gain exposure to complex driving situations, easing them into driving over an extended period of time.

Instructional Permit

After turning 15, your teen may apply for an instructional permit. A parent or legal guardian must sign the application. Your teen must complete 30 hours of classroom instruction from an accredited driver education school and be enrolled in or have completed behind-the-wheel instruction. Upon passing a vision and written test, your teen will be issued an instructional permit.

With an instructional permit, your child may only drive under the supervision of a certified driving instructor, licensed parent, legal guardian or other driver age 21 or older. After dark, a teen with an instructional permit may only drive under the supervision of a certified driving instructor or a licensed driver age 25 or older.

Teens must log a minimum of 40 hours of supervised practice driving, including 15 hours at night.  The law also requires an optional 90-minute supplemental education session for parents to provide information concerning graduated licensing, safety risks and the potential inmnuence of adults on driving behavior.  If a teen’s parents do not complete the class, the teen must acquire an additional 10 hours of supervised practice driving.

Provisional License

When your teen turns 16 and has driven conviction-free on an instructional permit for at least six months, the teen can apply for a provisional license. You or a legal guardian must first certify that your teen has completed the minimum requirements for practice driving. Then, upon presenting proof of driver education course completion and passing a road test, your teen will be issued a provisional license.

A teen with a provisional license is allowed to drive alone; however, for the first six months, the teen may not drive between midnight and 5 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent or licensed adult age 25 or older. Exceptions apply for driving between home, work and school. Additionally, for the first six months, only one passenger under the age of 20 is permitted to ride with your teen (immediate family members excluded) unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. After six months, no more than three passengers under the age of 20 are permitted unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Full License

After 12 months on a provisional license or reaching age 18, your teen may apply for a full license as long as the teen has no more than one conviction for a non-crash-related moving violation. For teens under age 18, a parent or guardian must certify that the applicant has driven under the supervision of a licensed driver (age 21 or older) for at least 10 additional hours.

In all instances, teen drivers and their passengers must wear seat belts. Additionally, Minnesota law prohibits teens age 18 and under from using a cell phone or other wireless device while driving — except for calling 911 or other emergency purposes. All Minnesota drivers are prohibited from composing, reading or sending text messages or accessing the Internet while driving.

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 Minnesota Driver & Vehicle Services Division is in charge of licensing for all drivers in Minnesota. All written exams and behind-the-wheel tests required for your driver’s license can be performed at any DVS service center. Please check in advance for locations, hours, fees, plus acceptable forms of identification you’ll need to present when applying for each stage of licensing. Study materials to help you get ready for the exams are also available.

State and local police enforce traffic laws and investigate crashes. 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. Talk to your teen about these and other consequences, and explain what to do if stopped by police.

  • If stopped by the police, teens should expect to present a valid license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
  • If 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.