Licensing & State Laws

Even though your teen is now licensed and driving alone, Pennsylvania’s multi-stage licensing process is still at work.

Learner’s Permit

At age 16, teens may apply for a learner’s permit. They will need to visit a state Driver’s License Center with their Social Security card, a completed medical clearance form, and a parent or guardian. After passing the vision and written exams, your teen will be issued a learner’s permit.

With a learner’s permit, teens may only drive with a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old, or a licensed spouse or guardian who is at 18 least years old, sitting in the front seat. Between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., the teen must be supervised by a licensed parent, guardian, or spouse. Teens are required to practice driving for at least 50 hours (65 hours, including 10 hours at night and 5 hours of inclement weather, beginning December 24, 2011), with a parent or a legal guardian, before they’re allowed a junior license. Learner’s permits are valid for one year.

Junior License

At age 16 and 6 months, a teen may obtain a junior license after having held a learner’s permit for at least 6 months. The teen must make a road test appointment (done online at www.dmv.state.pa.us or by calling 1-800-423-5542).

With a junior license, teens may drive unsupervised between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. Outside of these hours, teens may drive if accompanied by a parent, guardian or spouse. Exceptions exist for work, charity and volunteer activities. Beginning December 24, 2011, during the first 6 months of holding a junior driver’s license, a teen may not drive with more than 1 unrelated passenger under age 18, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. After the first 6 months, teens may not drive with more than 3 unrelated passengers under 18, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Full License

At age 17 and 6 months, teens are eligible for a full unrestricted license if they have held a junior license for 12 months, remained crash- and conviction-free and have taken a certified driver education course. Without driver education teens can get an unrestricted license at age 18. The state does not place night or passenger limits on those with unrestricted licenses. However, AAA encourages parents to maintain their own rules.

A parent-teen driving agreement can help you enforce the 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.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, through its Driver and Vehicle Services Program, is in charge of licensing for all drivers in Pennsylvania. The PADOT 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.

  • Your teen should expect to present a valid driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of auto insurance.
  • Explain to your teen that it is important to always cooperate and be respectful when speaking with law enforcement.
  • Make sure your teen understands the importance of talking to you about any encounters with law enforcement, because it can create a learning experience.

If your teen breaks a law, gets a ticket or is involved in a crash, it could lead to a court appearance and the following consequences.

  • Fines
  • Suspended driving privileges
  • Points
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Court costs
  • Insurance premium increases