Licensing & State Laws
To get your driver’s license in the District of Columbia, you’ll move through three licensing stages. As you progress, you’ll also need your parents’ permission at each step.
REAL ID Learner’s Permit
At age 16, teens can apply for a REAL ID learner’s permit. 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, no outstanding debts to the District of Columbia or unpaid fines for moving traffic violations in other jurisdictions, 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.
- Get ready for the District’s test by studying the D.C. Driving Manual.
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.
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.
At age 18, all restrictions on teen drivers end and you may drive unrestricted.
For more information on the licensing process, contact the District of Columbia’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
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.
Your parents will set rules as you learn to drive. But state and local police are involved, too, enforcing traffic laws and investigating crashes. By enforcing laws and requirements on seat belt use, distracted driving, drinking and driving, and teen license restrictions, police keep everyone on the road safer. Breaking laws can lead to fines, license suspension and other penalties.
- If pulled over by the police, present your driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
- If stopped as a driver or passenger, always cooperate and be respectful with law enforcement.
- If in any kind of situation involving law enforcement, talk to your parents about it immediately afterward.
- Use a parent-teen driving agreement.
- Keep your parents in the know about who you ride with.
- Let your parents know when and where you’re headed.
- StartSmart: Practice Driving – AAA’s tips for parents and teens about practice driving.
- StartSmart: Always Use Seat Belts – 63 percent of 16- to 20-year-olds who die in car crashes aren’t buckled up.
- StartSmart: Distractions and Driving – Read about the most common distractions, and get helpful advice for teens and parents.