Licensing & State Laws
To get your driver’s license in New York, you’ll move through three licensing stages. As you progress, you’ll also need your parents’ permission at each step.
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 the laws in your state.
For more information on the licensing process, visit the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.
The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, through its Driver Services Program, is in charge of licensing for all drivers in the state. The DMV:
- Conducts the written exam and road test for your learner’s permit and junior driver’s license.
- Provides study materials to help you get ready for the exams.
- 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.
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.
Police and courts are there when things go wrong. You and your parents can help keep things right.
- 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.