Licensing Process

To get your driver’s license in South Dakota, you’ll move through three licensing stages. As you progress, you’ll also need your parents’ permission at each step.

Instruction Permit

At age 14, if you are taking or who have taken some form of driver education, you may get your instruction permit if you pass the written driving exam (based on material in the South Dakota Driver Manual) and a vision exam. With an Instruction Permit, you may drive while accompanied by a parent/legal guardian. You must hold the instruction permit for 90 days if you’ve completed a state-approved driver education course prior to applying for a restricted minor’s permit. If you have not completed driver education, you must hold the instruction permit for 180 days.

Restricted Minor’s Permit

At age 14 (through age 18), you may obtain a restricted minor’s permit if you pass the vision, knowledge, and driving tests, complete the requirements of the instruction permit stage, and have not been convicted of a traffic violation during the six months prior to applying. The restricted minor’s permit allows you to drive without supervision from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. with a parent or guardian’s permission and from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. if the seat next to you is occupied by a parent or legal guardian. At age 18, the restricted minor’s permit automatically converts into an operator’s license.

Operator’s License

At age 16, you may obtain an operator’s license. If you already have a restricted minor’s permit and have had no traffic convictions in the prior six months, this can be completed by mail.  If you have an instruction permit or have not yet begun the process, you must complete the requirements of the instruction permit stage, pass the vision and knowledge tests and complete the mandatory 6-month holding period without a traffic conviction before taking the driving test to receive a full operator’s license.

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.

Licensing Authority

The South Dakota Department of Public Safety, through its Drivers License Services Division, is in charge of licensing for all drivers in the state. The DLSD:

  • Conducts the written exam and road test for your learner’s license and intermediate 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.
  • Parent-Teen Driving Agreement – Signing a formal agreement with your parents 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 on your PC.