Licensing & State Laws
Wisconsin’s multi-stage licensing process allows teens to gradually gain exposure to complex driving situations, easing them into driving over an extended period of time. The learner’s license and intermediate stages are key steps.
After turning 15 years 6 months, your teen may apply for an instruction permit. A parent or legal guardian must sign the application. Your teen should then enroll in an accredited driver education course that includes a minimum of 30 hours of classroom instruction, six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction and six hours of observation as a passenger. Upon passing a vision and knowledge test, your teen will be issued an instruction permit.
With an instruction permit, your teen may only drive under the supervision of a licensed parent, legal guardian or spouse age 19 or older (certain conditions allow for driving with any licensed driver age 21 or older). Your teen must log a minimum of 30 hours of supervised practice driving, including 10 hours at night. Additional passengers are limited to immediate family members who must be seated in the back seat. After dark, a teen with an instruction permit may only drive under the supervision of a licensed driver age 25 or older.
When your teen turns 16 and has driven conviction-free on an instruction permit for at least six months, your teen can apply for a probationary license. You or a legal guardian must first certify that your teen has completed the minimum requirements for practice driving. Then, upon presenting proof of driver education course completion and passing a road test, your teen will be issued a probationary license.
A teen with a probationary license is allowed to drive alone; however, for the first nine months the teen may not drive between midnight and 5 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent or licensed adult in the front passenger seat. Exceptions apply for driving between home, work and school. Additional passengers are limited to immediate family members, a driving instructor, or one other person. After nine months, the nighttime and passenger restrictions no longer apply.
At age 18, your teen has completed the probationary period of the graduated driver licensing system.
In all instances, all teen drivers and their front-seat passengers must wear seat belts. Additionally, AAA recommends that drivers of all ages should refrain from using a cell phone while driving, except for calling 911 or other emergency purposes. Wisconsin law prohibits drivers of any age from composing or sending electronic text messages while operating a vehicle.
A parent-teen driving agreement can help you 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.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is in charge of licensing for all drivers in Wisconsin. All written exams and behind-the-wheel tests required for a driver’s license can be performed at any Department of Motor Vehicles service center.
Please check in advance for locations, hours, fees, plus acceptable forms of identification your teen will need to present when applying for each stage of licensing. Study materials to help your teen get ready for the exams are also available. Keep in mind that as a parent or legal guardian, Wisconsin law authorizes you to withdraw consent to drive for your teen driver under age 18. This procedure begins with a notarized letter to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
- If stopped by the police, teens should expect to present a valid license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
- If stopped as a driver or passenger, teens should always cooperate and be respectful with law enforcement.
- If in any kind of situation involving law enforcement, teens should talk to their parents about it, because this can create a learning experience.
Graduated driver licensing (GDL) violations
Traffic violations related to GDL restrictions can result in points assessed to your teen’s driving record, fines set by the court and delayed advancement to the next level of licensure or the repeat of a level.
Operating while intoxicated in Wisconsin
In Wisconsin, drivers age 21 and over with a blood alcohol –concentration (BAC) of .08 or more can be charged with an operating while intoxicated (OWI) violation. Drivers under age 21 are required by law to maintain “absolute sobriety,” which, for them, means any amount of alcohol in their system is illegal.
Penalties for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated result in:
- License revocation for up to nine months.
- Six points on your driving record.
- Payment of a fine of up to $300.
- All penalties are increased with subsequent arrests and convictions.
Wisconsin alcohol purchase, consumption or possession law
A person under age 21 who is found guilty of a violation of state law or local ordinance relating to illegal consumption, possession, purchase or receipt of alcohol, regardless of whether a vehicle was involved faces penalties that can result in the suspension of his or her driving privileges.
Driver, passenger and child passenger seat belt laws
Here’s a summary of the passenger restraint laws in Wisconsin:
- Seat belts are required for the driver and all passengers.
- Children ages 4 up to 8 years and also weighing more than 40 pounds are required to be properly secured in a booster seat. If taller than 57″ or weighing more than 80 pounds, they must wear a seat belt.
- Children ages 1 until 4 and weighing more than 20 pounds must be properly secured in a forward-facing child restraint system. If they weigh more than 40 pounds, they must be properly secured in a booster seat.
- Children must be properly secured in a rear-facing child restraint system until the age of 1 and a weight of 20 pounds.
Failure to comply with these laws can result in fines set by the court — generally $10.
Wisconsin speed limit laws
Unless otherwise posted, the speed limits on Wisconsin roadways are as follows:
- Rural interstates: 65 mph
- Highways and freeways: 55 mph
- Other roads: 55 mph
- Outlying parts of cities and villages: 35 mph
- Residential and business streets: 25 mph
- School zones: 15 mph
Violations of these laws can result in fines set by the court and assessment of the following points to your driving record:
- 3 Points: 1-10 mph above limit
- 4 Points: 11-20 mph above limit
6 Points: More than 20 mph above limit
Your Teen Could Save a Life with CPR & AED Training
To keep your teen safe, you rely on the AAA Teen Driving site for valuable information to help guide them through the learning-to-drive and licensing processes, plus the latest updates on state laws affecting teen drivers and useful tools to help improve their driving skills.
Now we’ve teamed up with the American Red Cross to keep teens safe in other ways. Wisconsin law (2009 Wisconsin Act 273) requires schools to offer enrolled high school students cardiopulmonary and cardio cerebral resuscitation and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) instruction. The instruction must be based on a program established by the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association or other nationally recognized, evidence-based guidelines.
Training can give your teen the skills and confidence to act in an emergency and help to save a life. According to a Red Cross survey, 1 in 4 people have been in a situation where someone needed CPR.
What is Hands-Only CPR?
Hands-Only CPR is giving chest compressions without any mouth-to-mouth contact.
Watch the Hands-Only CPR Training Video.
How is Full CPR Different from Hands-Only CPR?
Full CPR consists of chest compressions and rescue breaths and is the best option to use for infants, children or drowning victims.
What is an AED?
Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are devices that analyze the heart’s rhythm and, if necessary, deliver an electrical shock, known as defibrillation, which helps the heart re-establish an effective rhythm. Different types of AEDs are available, but they are similar to operate and have common features such as electrode pads, voice prompts and visual displays to guide the user through the steps.
Watch AED Training Video.
For more information
The Red Cross offers two-year certification courses in First Aid and CPR/AED, among many other health and safety training classes. Find a Red Cross course in your area. Thanks for visiting TeenDriving.AAA.com and remind your teen to always drive safely!