Virginia uses a multi-stage licensing process for teens. This system allows teens to gradually gain exposure to complex driving situations, easing them into driving over an extended period of time.
At age 15 ½, teens can apply for a learner’s permit in the Commonwealth of Virginia. To do so, both teen and parent or guardian must visit their local driver exam office. Parents/guardians must sign teens’ application forms, or have their signature notarized on the form. Teens must also bring a state-certified copy of their birth certificate, proof of Virginia residency and Social Security card. The DMV has helpful online information about document requirements. Teens must pass a written driver’s knowledge test and a vision test to receive a learner’s permit.
With a learner’s permit, teens may only drive with a licensed driver age 21 or older supervising and sitting in the front seat. Learner’s permit holders may not drive with more than one non-family passenger under age 18. Teens are required to practice driving for at least 45 hours, including 15 hours at night, with a parent or a legal guardian, before they’re allowed a provisional license.
When teens turn 16 and 3 months, have had a learner’s permit for at least 9 months, completed an approved driver education course and completed 45 hours of practice driving (including 15 hours after sunset), they can obtain this provisional license. They must pass a behind-the-wheel driving test, and provide proof of practice driving time.
Teens with provisional licenses are allowed to drive alone, but must follow certain restrictions. They may not drive between midnight and 4 a.m. (Some exceptions are granted.) For the first year, they may not drive with more than one non-family member passenger under age 21. After one year, they may not drive with more than three passengers under age 21. Teen drivers and all passengers are required to wear seat belts.
At age 18, teens are eligible for a full unrestricted license if they have completed a certified driver education course. Without driver education, teens can get an unrestricted license at age 19. The state does not place night or passenger limits on those with unrestricted licenses. However, AAA encourages parents to maintain their own rules.
Cell Phone and Texting Laws
Drivers under age 18 may not use cell phones (handheld or hands-free) or other telecommunications devices while driving. Exceptions exist for emergency purposes or if the vehicle is legally stopped or parked. Drivers of all ages are prohibited from writing, reading or sending text messages or e-mails while driving.
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, through its Driver Services Program, is in charge of licensing for all drivers in Virginia. The Virginia DMV 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. Teens under the age of 19 who participate in an approved driver education course will have their road test administered by the driver training school.
Consider using a parent-teen driving agreement to help 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.