Licensing & State Laws

The District of Columbia’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 16, teens can apply for a learner’s permit in the District of Columbia. To do so, both teen and parent must visit their local driver exam office with proof of birth, Social Security number and proof of D.C. residency, as well as a notarized parental consent form. Teens must pass a written driver’s knowledge test  and a vision test to receive a learner’s permit.

Limited Purpose Learner Permit

At age 16, teens can apply for a Limited Purpose Learner Permit. Applicants must schedule an appointment with the DMV and provide proof of legal name, date of birth, proof of DC residency, proof of residency in DC for at least 6 months, social security declaration form, no outstanding debts to the District or unpaid fines in other jurisdictions for moving traffic violations and proof of parent’s approval if 16 or 17 years old. You must pass a driver’s knowledge test and a vision test to receive your learner permit.

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 are only permitted to drive between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. Teens are required to practice driving for at least 40 hours with a parent or a legal guardian before they’re allowed a provisional license.

Provisional License

When teens turn 16½, have had a learner’s permit for at least 6 months and have completed 40 hours of practice driving, they can apply for a provisional license. They also must pass a behind-the-wheel driving test, provide proof of practice driving time and submit a photocopy of the supervising driver’s license.

Teens with provisional licenses are allowed to drive alone, but must follow certain restrictions. Teens may not drive unsupervised between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. on Sunday through Thursday nights or between midnight and 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights. (Some exceptions are granted.) During July and August, the night limit is midnight to 6 a.m. every night. Teens may not drive with passengers other than one licensed driver age 21 or older who is seated in the front seat and/or teens’ parents and siblings. Additionally, provisional license holders must practice night driving for at least 10 hours with a licensed driver age 21 or older. Teen drivers and all passengers are required to wear seat belts.

Full License with Conditions

At age 17, teens who have held a provisional license for at least six months and have practiced driving at night for at least 10 hours may apply for a full license with certain restrictions. They must submit proof of practice driving time and a photocopy of the supervising driver’s license.

Teen drivers with a full license with conditions under age 18 may drive with no more than two non-family passengers under age 21. Night driving restrictions from the provisional license stage continue.

Full License

At age 18, all restrictions on teen drivers end and they may drive unrestricted.

District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles is in charge of licensing for all drivers in D.C. The DMV conducts the written exam and road test needed to get a driver’s license. DMV also provides study materials to help your teen get ready for the exams.

Local police enforce traffic laws and investigate crashes. Some federally authorized police also enforce traffic laws in the District. 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.
  • As part of DC’s GRAD Program for teen drivers, notification of night limit, passenger limit and other graduated driver’s license program violations by drivers under age 18 will be sent to teens’ parents or guardians.

 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.