Licensing Process

Wisconsin uses a multi-stage licensing process for teens. This system allows teens to gradually gain exposure to complex driving situations, easing them into driving over an extended period of time.

Instruction Permit

After turning 15 years 6 months, your teen may apply for an instruction permit. A parent or legal guardian must sign the application. Your teen should then enroll in an accredited driver education course that includes a minimum of 30 hours of classroom instruction, six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction and six hours of observation as a passenger. Upon passing a vision and knowledge 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, legal guardian or spouse age 19 or older (certain conditions allow for driving with any licensed driver age 21 or older). Your teen must log a minimum of 30 hours of supervised practice driving, including 10 hours at night. Additional passengers are limited to immediate family members who must be seated in the back seat. After dark, a teen with an instruction permit may only drive under the supervision of a licensed driver age 25 or older.

Probationary License

When your teen turns 16 and has driven conviction-free on an instruction permit for at least six months, your teen can apply for a probationary 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 probationary license.

A teen with a probationary license is allowed to drive alone; however, for the first nine months the teen may not drive between midnight and 5 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent or licensed adult in the front passenger seat. Exceptions apply for driving between home, work and school. Additional passengers are limited to immediate family members, a driving instructor, or one other person. After nine months, the nighttime and passenger restrictions no longer apply.

FULL LICENSE

At age 18, your teen has completed the probationary period of the graduated driver licensing system.

In all instances, all teen drivers and their front-seat passengers must wear seat belts. Additionally, AAA recommends that drivers of all ages should refrain from using a cell phone while driving, except for calling 911 or other emergency purposes. Wisconsin law prohibits drivers of any age from composing or sending electronic text messages while operating a vehicle.

Consider using a parent-teen driving agreement 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.