Licensing & State Laws

Virginia’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. The learner’s permit and provisional license stages are key steps.

Learner’s Permit

At age 15 ½, teens can apply for a learner’s permit in the Commonwealth of Virginia. To do so, both teen and parent or guardian must visit their local driver exam office. Parents/guardians must sign teens’ application forms, or have their signature notarized on the form. Teens must also bring a state-certified copy of their birth certificate, proof of Virginia residency and Social Security card. The DMV has helpful online information about document requirements. Teens must pass a written driver’s knowledge test.

With a learner’s permit, teens may only drive with a licensed driver age 21 or older supervising and sitting in the front seat. Learner’s permit holders may not drive with more than one non-family passenger under age 18. Teens are required to practice driving for at least 45 hours, including 15 hours at night, with a parent or a legal guardian, before they’re allowed a provisional license.

Provisional License

When teens turn 16 and 3 months, have had a learner’s permit for at least 9 months, completed an approved driver education course and completed 45 hours of practice driving (including 15 hours after sunset), they can obtain this provisional license. They must pass a behind-the-wheel driving test, and provide proof of practice driving time.

Teens with provisional licenses are allowed to drive alone, but must follow certain restrictions. They may not drive between midnight and 4 a.m. (Some exceptions are granted.) For the first year, they may not drive with more than one non-family member passenger under age 21. After one year, they may not drive with more than three passengers under age 21. Teen drivers and all passengers are required to wear seat belts.

Full License

At age 18, teens are eligible for a full unrestricted license if they have completed a certified driver education course. Without driver education, teens can get an unrestricted license at age 19. The state does not place night or passenger limits on those with unrestricted licenses. However, AAA encourages parents to maintain their own rules.

Cell Phone and Texting Laws

Drivers under age 18 may not use cell phones (handheld or hands-free) or other telecommunications devices while driving. Exceptions exist for emergency purposes or if the vehicle is legally stopped or parked. Drivers of all ages are prohibited from writing, reading or sending text messages or e-mails 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 Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, through its Driver Services Program, is in charge of licensing for all drivers in Virginia. The Virginia DMV conducts the written exam and road test needed to get a driver’s license. It also provides study materials to help your teen get ready for the exams.  Teens under the age of 19 who participate in an approved driver education course will have their road test administered by the driver training school.

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.