Licensing & State Laws
Are you are legally allowed to drive without supervision? Learn more about Virginia’s multi-stage licensing process.
When you turn 15 and 6 months, you may apply for a learner’s permit. You and a parent or guardian need to visit your local driver exam office and bring a state-certified copy of your birth certificate. Once you pass the written driver’s knowledge test and a vision test, you’ll be given your learner’s permit.
A learner’s permit lets you drive only with a licensed driver age 21 or older supervising and sitting in the front seat. The learner’s permit lets you practice driving with an experienced adult driver. Once you have practiced driving for at least 45 hours (including 15 hours after sunset) with a parent or legal guardian, you are allowed to get a provisional license.
When you turn 16 and 3 months and have had your learner’s permit for at least 9 months, you can go to your local DMV to take the driving test. You’ll also need to take a second vision test and provide proof that you completed the required practice driving time. Once you do that, you can receive your provisional license. Make sure a parent comes with you to sign the application form or get your parent’s notarized signature on the form ahead of time.
- Keep track of your practice driving with the AAA Driving Log.
When you have a provisional license, you’re allowed to drive without a parent, but you must follow certain rules to help keep you safe. Virginia does not allow teens with provisional licenses to drive between 12 midnight and 4 a.m. — some of the riskiest driving hours for all drivers and especially teens. Exceptions are granted for travel to and from work, school activities and medical reasons. You also may not drive with more than one non-family passenger under age 21 for the first year you hold your license. After one year, you may transport up to three passengers under 21 until you reach age 18. You and all of your passengers must wear seat belts while you’re driving.
At age 18, you are eligible for a full unrestricted license if you have successfully completed a driver education course. Without driver education, you cannot get an unrestricted license until age 20.
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.
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, contact the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.
- 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.
- Suspended driving privileges
- Driver’s license points
- Attorney’s fees
- Court costs
- Insurance rate increases
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, through its Driver Services Program, is in charge of licensing for all drivers in Virginia. The Virginia DMV 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.
- StartSmart: Practice Driving – AAA’s tips for parents and teens about practice driving.
- StartSmart: Always Use Seat Belts – 63 percent of 16- to 20-year-olds who die in car crashes aren’t buckled up.
- StartSmart: Distractions and Driving – Read about the most common distractions, and get helpful advice for teens and parents.
- Parent-Teen Driving Agreement – Signing a formal agreement with your parent 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.