Licensing & State Laws
Are you legally allowed to drive without supervision now? Learn more about New York’s three-stage licensing process.
When you turn 16, you may apply for a leaner’s permit. You and a parent or guardian need to visit your local driver exam office and bring six points of identity and your Social Security card. Be prepared to pass a vision test or bring a completed eye test report. If you have not taken driver education and received a completion certificate, you must pass a written test before being given your learner’s permit.
With a learner’s permit, you 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. Front seat occupants are limited to the supervising driver and all occupants must wear safety belts. You may not drive with more than one unrelated passenger under 21. Learner’s permit holders cannot drive on Westchester parkways or within the city of New York. You must hold a learner’s permit for 6 months while accumulating 50 hours (including 15 hours at night) of driving practice with a licensed parent, guardian, driving school instructor, and/or driver education teacher. You 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.
- Keep track of your practice driving with the AAA Driving Log.
Junior Driver’s License
After having held a learner’s permit for at least 6 months, you may apply for a junior driver’s license. You must also have completed a pre-licensing course and 50 hours of practice driving. You must schedule and pass a road test, then you will be issued a junior driver’s license.
When you have a junior driver’s license, you are allowed to drive on your own, but must follow certain restrictions. You may not drive with more than one unrelated passenger under 21. You may not drive in the city of New York. Upstate, you may not drive between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., except to or from your home directly to a school course or work. In Nassau and Suffolk counties, you may drive unsupervised directly from your home to or from work and driver education only between the hours of 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. You 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 you are accompanied by a parent or guardian. All vehicle occupants must wear safety belts.
At age 18, if you have a valid junior driver’s license you will automatically receive your full license in the mail. If you are 17, you are eligible for a full license if you have a junior driver’s license and have completed a driver education course. You must bring your junior driver’s license and the form MV-285 driver education certificate, which you received from your instructor, to any motor vehicle office to receive a senior license. With a full license you are allowed to drive without any restrictions.
Now is a good time to set up a parent-teen driving agreement to help you and your parents establish expectations related to both their rules and those of the state.
For more information on the licensing process, visit the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.
Police enforce life-saving traffic laws related to seat belt use, drinking and driving, teen driver’s licenses and speeding, among others. If you violate these laws, you will be punished. Breaking the law can lead to fines, license suspension and other penalties.
- Expect to present your driver’s license, 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.
- Suspended driving privileges
- Driver’s license points
- Attorney’s fees
- Court costs
- Insurance rate increases
The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, through its Driver Services Program, is in charge of licensing for all drivers in New York. NYSDMV keeps track of your license status and can suspend your license if you get too many tickets, don’t keep insurance on your car or commit other violations.
- 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.
- Parent-Teen Driving Agreement – Signing a formal agreement with your parent helps in multiple ways.
- Driver-ZED – Offered by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Driver-ZED is a computer-based program to help you practice driving.