Licensing & State Laws
To get your driver’s license in Illinois, you’ll move through three licensing stages. As you progress, you’ll also need your parents’ permission at each step.
Instruction Permit – 15
When you turn 15, you may apply for an instruction permit with the written consent of your parent or legal guardian. Upon enrolling in an approved driver education course, passing a written driver’s knowledge test and a vision test, you’ll be issued an instruction permit.
With an instruction permit, teens may only drive under the supervision of a licensed parent or adult age 21 or older, who must be riding in the front passenger seat. The number of passengers is limited to one in the front seat and the number of seat belts in the back seat. You’re required to practice driving for at least 50 hours, including 10 hours at night, before moving on to the initial licensing phase. Illinois does not allow you to drive between 10 p.m.-6 a.m. Sunday-Thursday nights or between 11 p.m.-6 a.m., Friday-Saturday nights.
- Keep track of your practice driving with the AAA Driving Log.
Initial Driver’s License – 16
When you turn 16 and have driven conviction-free on an instruction permit for at least nine months, you can apply for an initial driver’s license. Your parent or legal guardian must certify that you have completed a minimum of 50 hours of practice driving, including 10 hours at night. Successful completion of a state-approved driver education course must also be provided, plus proof of qualified enrollment in or graduation from an accredited high school or GED program (certain exclusions apply). Your parent must either accompany you to the Driver Services facility to sign an application form or have their signature notarized on an authorized form. You’ll be required to pass a behind-the-wheel test before your initial license is issued.
With your initial license, you’re allowed to drive alone, but must follow certain restrictions. Illinois does not allow teens with initial licenses to drive between 10 p.m.-6 a.m. Sunday-Thursday nights or between 11 p.m.-6 a.m. Friday-Saturday nights — some of the riskiest driving hours for teens. For the first 12 months of licensing or until you turn 18, whichever comes first, the number of passengers is limited to one person under age 20, unless the additional passenger is your sibling, step-sibling, child or step-child. After this period, the number of passengers is limited to one in the front seat and the number of seat belts in the back seat. Keep in mind that until you reach the age of 18, Illinois law authorizes your parents or legal guardian to withdraw their consent for you to drive. Listen to their direction and respect their knowledge.
Full License – 18
When you turn 18, you’re eligible for a full, unrestricted license if you’ve held a conviction-free initial license for at least six months.
In Illinois, everyone ages 18-20 who did not attend driver’s education, must complete a 6-hour driver training and education course before applying for a driver’s license. These courses are offered by driving schools certified by the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. For more information about these courses, visit cyberdriveIllinois.com.
In all instances, all teen drivers and their passengers must wear seat belts. Additionally, teens under the age of 19 are prohibited from using a cell phone or any type of hand-held communication device — including texting — while driving, except for calling 911 or other emergency purposes.
For more information on the licensing process, visit the Illinois Secretary of State Office.
Illinois’ 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 instruction permit and initial driver’s license are key steps.
The Illinois Secretary of State Office is in charge of licensing for all drivers in Illinois. All written exams and behind-the-wheel tests required for your driver’s license can be performed at any Driver Services facility. High schools participating in the Cooperative Driver Testing Program (CDTP) may also conduct licensing tests.
Please check in advance for locations, hours, fees, plus acceptable forms of identification you’ll need to present when applying for each stage of licensing. Study materials to help you get ready for the exams are also available.
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.
If you get a ticket or are involved in a crash, you may need to appear in court, whether you believe you were at fault or not. This is serious stuff: Judges often assess fines and suspend driving privileges for traffic offenses – even a first offense.
- 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.
Graduated Driver’s License (GDL) Violations
Traffic violations related to GDL restrictions can range from fines set by the court to suspension or revocation of your driver’s license or driving privileges.
Driving Under the Influence in Illinois
In Illinois, drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more can be charged with a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) violation. While the penalties are severe, they’re even more punitive for drivers under the age of 21.
Under 21 DUI
- A first DUI conviction can result in revocation of driving privileges for a minimum of two years.
- A first-time DUI offender under age 18 on a statutory summary suspension is not eligible for a Monitoring Device Driving Permit (MDDP).
Remedial education and/or retesting may be required prior to reinstatement of driving privileges for those under age 18.
Illinois alcohol possession or consumption law
A person under the age of 21 who is found guilty or granted court supervision for a violation of state law or local ordinance relating to illegal consumption, possession, purchase or receipt of alcohol, regardless of whether a vehicle was involved, will face a loss of driving privileges, in addition to any fine imposed.
- Court supervision for any of these offenses can result in a three-month suspension of driving privileges.
- A first conviction can result in a six-month suspension of driving privileges. Subsequent convictions can result in an extended suspension or revocation of driving privileges.
Driver, Passenger and Child Passenger Seat Belt Laws
Here’s a summary of the passenger restraint laws in Illinois:
- Seat belts are required for the driver and front seat passengers age 8 and older. All passengers age 16 and under must be properly restrained regardless of their location in the vehicle.
- If the driver is under age 18, all passengers under 19 must be restrained in all seats.
- Any driver transporting a child under age 8 is responsible for securing the child in an appropriate child restraint system for his or her age and weight.
Children over 40 pounds may be transported in the back seat of a vehicle with only a lap belt if the back seat is not equipped with a lap and shoulder belt.
Failure to comply with these laws can result in fines set by the court and possible suspension of certain driving privileges.
Illinois Speed Limit Laws
Unless otherwise posted, the speed limits on Illinois roadways are as follows:
- Rural interstates: 70 mph
- Urban interstates: between 55mph and 70mph depending upon location
- Other limited-access roads: 65 mph
- Other roads: 55 mph
Violations of Illinois speed limit laws can result in fines set by the court and possible suspension of driving privileges.
- 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.