Licensing & State Laws

Pennsylvania’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 learner’s permit and junior license stages are key steps.

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 65 hours, including 10 hours at night and 5 hours of inclement weather, 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 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. 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 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 Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for more information.

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.

State and local police enforce traffic laws and investigate crashes. 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. Talk to your teen about these and other consequences, and explain what to do if stopped by police.

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