Licensing & State Laws

Are you legally allowed to drive without supervision now? Learn more about South Dakota’s multi-stage licensing process.

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.

For more information, visit the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.

Police enforce life-saving traffic laws related to seat belt use, drinking and driving, teen licensure and speeding, among others. If you violate those laws, you will be punished. Breaking the law can lead to fines, license suspension and other penalties.

  • Expect to present your driver’s license, the 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.

  • Fines
  • Suspended driving privileges
  • Driver’s license points
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Court costs
  • Insurance rate increases

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