Licensing & State Laws
Even though your teen is now licensed and driving alone, Virginia’s multi-stage licensing process is still at work.
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.
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.
- 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.
- Suspended driving privileges
- Attorney’s fees
- Court costs
- Insurance premium increases
Under Virginia’s Driver Improvement Program for juveniles, the law mandates that DMV impose sanctions on teen drivers who are convicted of seat belt, child restraint or demerit-point offenses:
If the teen is under age 18 on the offense date:
- 1st conviction – Require completion of an 8-hour driver improvement clinic
- 2nd conviction – Suspend driving privileges for 90 days. The teen may petition the Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court for a restricted license that allows driving to/from work and to/from institution of higher learning
- 3rd conviction – Revoke driving privileges for one year. The teen is not eligible for restricted privileges, and must retest to regain driving privileges at end of revocation
Age 18 or 19 on the offense date:
- 1st conviction – require completion of an 8-hour driver improvement clinic