Licensing & State Laws

Are you legally allowed to drive without supervision now? Learn more about the District of Columbia’s multi-stage licensing process.

Learner’s Permit

At age 16, teens can apply for a learner’s permit in the District of Columbia. To do so, both you and your parent must visit your 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. You must pass a driver’s knowledge test and a vision test to receive your 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, you 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. You are required to practice driving for at least 40 hours with a parent or a legal guardian before you are allowed a provisional license.

Provisional License

When you turn 16½, have had a learner’s permit for at least 6 months and have completed 40 hours of practice driving, you can apply for a provisional license. You must also 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. You 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. You may not drive with passengers other than one licensed driver age 21 or older who is seated in the front seat and/or your parents and siblings. Additionally, provisional license holders must practice night driving for at least 10 hours with a licensed driver age 21 or older. You and all your 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. You 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 you may drive unrestricted.

For more information, contact the District of Columbia’s Department of Motor Vehicles. For more information on District of Columbia traffic laws, here is an overview.

State Laws

When your parents aren’t in the car beside you, authority figures are still watching over you. State and local government agencies keep the roads safe for everyone by enforcing traffic laws.

Police enforce life-saving traffic laws related to seat belt use, drinking and driving, teen licensure and speeding, among others. If you violate those laws, you will be punished. Breaking the law can lead to fines, license suspension and other penalties. See an overview of District of Columbia traffic laws.

  • Expect to present your driver’s license, the vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
  • Always cooperate and be respectful with law enforcement, whether you’re the driver or a passenger.
  • Talk to your parent about what happened.

If you get a ticket or are in a crash, it could lead to a court appearance and many unpleasant consequences.

  • Fines
  • Suspended driving privileges
  • Driver’s license points
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Court costs
  • Insurance rate increases

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