Licensing & State Laws

New York’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 system differs for teens in Upstate, Nassau and Suffolk counties and in the city of New York. The learner’s permit and junior driver’s license stages are key steps.

Learner’s Permit

When teens turn 16, they may apply for a learner’s permit. You and your teen need to visit your local driver exam office to give consent and present the six required identity documents and the teen’s Social Security card. Teens must pass a vision test or bring a completed eye test report. Teens who have not completed driver education must pass a written knowledge test. Once they pass the written driver’s knowledge test and the vision test, they’ll be given a learner’s permit.

With a learner’s permit, teens may only drive while under the immediate supervision of an approved license holder in the front passenger seat. Requirements for authorized supervisors vary based on time of day and location in the state. In New York City, for example, the supervisor must be a parent or driver education instructor and the vehicle must have dual controls. Learner’s permit holders may not drive with more than one non-family passenger under age 21. Teens are required to practice driving for at least 50 hours, including 15 hours at night, with a licensed parent, guardian, driving school instructor and/or driver education teacher. Teens are also required to take a five-hour pre-licensing course in order to take a road test and receive a junior driver’s license.

Junior Driver’s License

After having held a learner’s permit for at least 6 months, teens may apply for a junior driver’s license. The teen must also have completed a pre-licensing course and 50 hours of practice driving. Teens must schedule and pass a road test, then will be issued a junior driver’s license.

Teens with junior driver’s licenses are allowed to drive on their own, but must follow certain restrictions. Teens may not drive with more than one unrelated passenger under 21. The holders of a junior driver’s license may not drive in the city of New York. Upstate, teens may not drive between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., except to or from school or work. In Nassau and Suffolk counties, teens may drive unsupervised to or from work and driver education. For other trips, they may only drive between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. when accompanied by a licensed driver age 21 or older. They may drive at any time of day when supervised by a licensed parent or guardian. The night limits do not apply Upstate or in Suffolk and Nassau counties if the teen is accompanied by a parent or guardian. All vehicle occupants must wear safety belts.

Full License

At age 17, teens are eligible for a full unrestricted license if they have a junior driver’s license and have completed a driver education course. At age 18, teens with a junior driver’s license will automatically receive their full license in the mail. The state does not place night or passenger limits on those with full unrestricted licenses. However, AAA encourages parents to maintain their own rules.

A parent-teen driving agreement can help you 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.

Visit the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles for more information.

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (NYSDMV), through its Driver Services Program, is in charge of licensing for all drivers in New York. The NYSDMV conducts the written exam and road test needed to get a driver’s license. It also provides study materials to help your teen get ready for the exams.

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.

  • If stopped by the police, teens should present a valid license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
  • Whether 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.

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.