All California residents who drive on public highways or use public parking facilities must have a California driver license, except:
- Members of the Armed Forces or a United States (U.S.) Government civilian employee who only drives vehicles owned or controlled by the U.S. Government on federal business.
- Persons who drive farming vehicles not normally used on public highways.
- Persons who drive registered off-highway vehicles or snowmobiles across a highway (other than a freeway).
- Visitors to California
- If you are a visitor in California over 18 years old and have a valid driver’s license from your home state or country (where you live permanently), you may drive in this state without getting a California driver’s license as long as your home state license remains valid.
- Visitors who are Minors
- If you are a visitor in California, between 16 and 18 years old, you may drive in California with your home state license or instruction permit for only 10 days after you arrive in California. After the 10 days you must have either a nonresident minor’s certificate or a California license.
- A nonresident minor’s certificate lets you drive in California with a valid home state license. The certificate is issued by the DMV to a minor who has given proof of financial responsibility in case of an accident. Proof is usually a motor vehicle insurance certificate from an insurance company allowed to do business in California.
Licensing Requirements for Minors
A minor is a person under 18 years of age and must have met the permit requirements. Minors must have their applications signed their parent(s) or legal guardian(s). If both parents/ guardians have joint custody, both must sign.
To get a permit you must:
- Be at least 15 and half years of age, but less than 18 years of age.
- Complete the Driver License or Identification Card Application (DL 44) form.
For more information, visit:
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- Have your parent(s) or guardian(s) sign the DL 44 form.
- Pass a traffic laws and road signs test. If you fail the test, you must wait one week before retaking the test.
If you are 15 and half -17 and half years of age, you will need to provide proof that you:
- Have completed driver education (Certificate of Completion of Driver Education) OR
- Are enrolled and participating in an approved integrated driver education/driver training program (Certificate of Enrollment in an Integrated [Classroom] Driver Education and Driver Training Program).
- The provisional permit is not valid until you start your behind-the-wheel driver training with an instructor or reach age 17 and half.
For more information about Provisional Licensing, visit:http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d06/vc12814_6.htm
Minor’s Permit Restrictions
- A minor’s permit is not valid until he or she begins driver training. The instructor will sign the permit to validate it.
- The minor must practice with a licensed California driver: parent, guardian, driving instructor or an adult 25 years of age or older. The person must sit close enough to you to take control of the vehicle at any time.
- A provisional permit does not allow the minor to drive alone, not even to a DMV office to take a driving test.
- The first step to getting your license is to get your instruction permit. If you are under 18 and at least 15 and half, you can apply for a provisional driver license. This means you have additional restrictions placed on your permit and driver license that adults (18 and over) do not have.
- Your provisional instruction permit will have the following restrictions.
- You must obey the traffic laws
- You must drive without a collision
- You must drive with your parent, guardian or an adult 25 years of age or older, who has a valid California driver license.
- You must hold your permit for six months before you can take your driving test to get your driver license.
For more information about Provisional Permits, visit:http://www.dmv.ca.gov/teenweb/permit_btn1/permit.htm
For more information on “How to Apply for a Permit,” visit:http://www.dmv.ca.gov/teenweb/permit_btn1/apply.htm
Minor’s Driver License Requirements
- Must be at least 16 years old.
- Proof of driver education and driver training completion
- Have had a California instruction permit or an instruction permit from another state for at least six months.
- Provide parent(s) or guardian(s) signature(s) on your instruction permit stating that you have completed 50 hours of supervised driving practice (10 hours must be night driving)
- Pass the behind-the-wheel driving test.
Note: You have three chances to pass the driving test while your permit is valid. If you fail the behind the wheel driving test, you must pay a retest fee for a second or subsequent test and wait two weeks before you are retested.
Provisional Driver’s License
- Once you have your provisional driver license, you may drive alone, as long as you do not have any collisions or traffic violations. When you become 18 years old, the “provisional” part of your driver license ends. You may keep your provisional photo license or pay a fee for a duplicate driver license without the word “provisional.”
- During the first 12 months after you are licensed:
- You cannot drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
- You cannot transport passengers under 20 years of age unless you are accompanied by a:
- Licensed parent or guardian
- Licensed driver 25 years of age or older
- Licensed or certified driving instructor
Exceptions to Minor’s Driver License Restrictions
The law allows the following exceptions to minor’s driver license restrictions:
- Medical necessity to drive when reasonable transportation alternatives are inadequate. A note must be signed by a physician and states the diagnosis and probable date of recovery.
- Schooling or school-authorized activity. The school principal, dean or designee must sign the note.
- Employment necessity and the need to operate a vehicle as part of your employment. The note must be signed by the employer to verify employment.
- The necessity to drive an immediate family member. A physician’s note and a note signed by your parent(s) or legal guardian(s) is required, stating the reason and probable end date of the necessity to drive the immediate family member.
Note: These requirements do not apply to an emancipated minor. The minor must have declared her- or himself emancipated and provided the DMV with Proof of Financial Responsibility (SR 1P) in lieu of your parent(s) or guarantor(s) signature(s).
Teenage Driving Facts
Getting your license is an exciting event of your life. It is important that you follow safe driving rules, especially being a new driver. It is also important for new teen drivers to follow road signs and speed limit laws and be extra aware of when driving on the roadway.
- Traffic Violations
- Nearly 50 percent of the drivers between 15 -19 years of age are convicted of a traffic violation in their first year of driving. The most common violation is for speeding, which often results in the loss of vehicle control.
- Teenage Traffic Deaths
- According to research, drivers 15-19 years old have the highest traffic conviction, collision and injury rates of any age group. Traffic collisions are the leading cause of death for teenagers. If you are under 18 years old, your risk of a fatal collision is about 2 and half times more than an “average” driver. Your risk of an injury collision is also three times higher than the average driver.
- Teenagers as a group average twice as many collisions as adult drivers. Studies show that the traffic collisions of new drivers are a deadly combination of their inexperience driving, lack of familiarity with the vehicle, and their need to push themselves and the vehicle to the limit.
- The DMV keeps a public record of all your traffic convictions and accidents and assigns point counts to these occurrences. The purpose of the point count system is to alert drivers when they are in danger of being classified as a Negligent Operator of a motor vehicle.
- Each occurrence will stay on your record for 36 months to 10 years or longer depending on circumstances. Points are assigned in the following manner:
- A traffic conviction for a minor driving infraction counts as one point
- Any even partially “at fault” accident is normally counted as one point
- Two points are charged against you if you are convicted of more serious traffic offenses. For example:
- Reckless driving
- Hit- and-run
- Evading law enforcement
- Driving while suspended or revoked
- You will be considered to be a Negligent Operator of a motor vehicle when your driving record shows any of the following “point count” totals, regardless of your license status:
- 4 points in 12 months
- 6 points in 24 months
- 8 points in 36 months
- Being classified as a Negligent Operator may cause your license to be suspended. Further points assigned to your record may cause your license to be revoked.
- Provisional licensees have even stricter point count criteria.
- A warning letter for receiving 1 point on your record within 12 months
- A 30-day restriction of your driving privilege to driving only when accompanied by a licensed adult 25 years of age or older for receiving 2 points on your record within 12 months
- License suspension for 6 months and probation for 1 year for receiving 3 points in 12 months
- License suspension for 1 year or more for receiving additional points while on probation.
- Any restriction, suspension or probation will continue past your 18th birthday for its full term. Other even stronger actions can be taken if you continue to add points to your record.
- Under some circumstances and in certain jurisdictions, you may be able to attend a court-approved Traffic Violator School (depending on the county where you got the ticket and whether the judge offers), which will result in a dismissed citation and prevent the points from being included in your point count total. Only one citation within 18 months can be masked from the driving record this way.
- Violating the passenger or nighttime driving restrictions imposed upon all provisional licenses and may result in either court-ordered community service or a fine.
- For persons ages 13 to 20, a conviction of using alcohol or a controlled substance anywhere results in the court ordering then DMV to suspend your license for one year or. If the person does not have license, the court may order the DMV to extend the time for eligibility to apply for a license by one year.
- Refusing to take a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test, such as preliminary breath test will result in a license suspension for one year. The license will be revoked for subsequent offenses.
- A provisional license will be suspended for failure to appear in court (FTA) or failure to pay fees or fines (FTP).
Habitual Truant (Persons 13-18 Years of Age) The court will suspend, restrict, delay or revoke your driving privilege for one year if you are convicted of being a habitual truant from school.
Keeping Your Provisional Driver license The DMV will track your driving record and take actions based upon any collisions or violations as follows:
- If you get a traffic ticket and fail to appear in court, the DMV will suspend your driving privilege until you appear in court.
- If you get a traffic ticket and fail to pay the fine, the DMV will suspend your driving privilege until you pay the fine.
- If you have one “at fault” collision or conviction within 12 months, the DMV will send you a warning letter.
- If you have a second “at fault” collision or conviction (or combination of both) within 12 months, you cannot drive for 30 days, unless accompanied by your licensed parent or other licensed adult who is at least 25 years of age.
- If you have a third “at fault” collision or conviction (or any combination) within 12 months, you will be suspended for six months and placed on probation for one year.
- If you have additional “at fault” collisions or point count convictions while on probation, you will be suspended again. Traffic law violations resolved in Juvenile Court are also reported to the DMV.
- If you are convicted of using alcohol or a controlled substance and you are between 13-20 years of age, the court orders the DMV to suspend your driver license for one year. If you do not have a driver license, the court orders the DMV to delay your eligibility to apply for a driver license. You may also be required to complete a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) program.
- Any restriction, suspension, or probation will continue for its full term past your 18th birthday.
- Other stronger actions may be taken if your driving record justifies them. Remember, if your driving privilege has been suspended or revoked, you may not drive in California.
Minors and Cell Phones
It is against the law for a minor to use a cell phone while driving. If your cell phone rings, do not answer the call or respond to the text message. Convictions for violations of this law are subject to fines.
You may use a cell phone to contact law enforcement, a health care provider, the fire department or another emergency entity in an emergency situation.
License Refusal, Suspension and Revocation
The California Department of Motor Vehicles issues, refuses, suspends and revokes driver’s licenses. If you fail to comply with the driving laws, you can lose your driver’s license!
- A court may suspend or delay your driver license for vandalism.
- The parent or guardian who signed the application for a provisional license may request to have the license canceled at any time and for any reason.
- A court may suspend or delay a license for 5 years for unlawful use or concealment of pistol, revolver, or other firearms.
- A court may suspend or revoke a driver license for driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You may also be imprisoned and fined.
- Refusal to take a chemical test of your blood alcohol content (BAC) will result in license suspension. A license may be revoked for subsequent offenses. Law enforcement may legally conduct the test without your consent.
- A court may suspend or revoke a driver license for certain offenses involving controlled substances when the use of a motor vehicle was involved in, or incidental to, the commission of the offense. The court is required to suspend or revoke your license if you use alcohol or drugs in the commission of certain offenses.
- A court may suspend or revoke a driver license for excessive speeding (driving in excess of 100 miles an hour) or reckless driving. You may also be imprisoned or fined.
- A license will be revoked for failing to stop at the scene of, or to provide information for, a fatal or injury collision in which the person is involved.
- A license will also be revoked for reckless driving which results in bodily injury, alcohol-related offenses and most felonies in which a motor vehicle is used, including vehicular manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon involving a motor vehicle.
- A court may suspend or revoke a license for auto theft.
- A court may suspend or revoke a driver license for racing a vehicle on a highway (speed contest, exhibition of speed) or for aiding or abetting a speed contest. You may also be fined, imprisoned and have your vehicle impounded.
- A license will be suspended for failing, refusing or neglecting to report an accident in which there is more than $750 worth of property damage, an injury or death in which the person is involved. This includes judgments from small claims courts.
- A license will be suspended for being unable to show proof of financial responsibility when involved in an accident.
- A license may be revoked for violating license restrictions.
- A court may suspend a license for multiple intersection violations, which include disobeying crossing guards and blocking an intersection, crosswalk or railroad crossing.
- A license may be suspended for multiple violations of not stopping for a school bus with flashing red lights.
- A license may be suspended if a motor vehicle is used in the commission of an act of prostitution, if the act occurred near a residence.
- When DMV suspends or revokes a license (usually by notification in mail), the license must be surrendered.
- If you are caught later driving with a suspended or revoked license, the vehicle used can be impounded and sold.
- The penalties for driving without a license or on a suspended or revoked license include jail time, substantial fines and impoundment of the vehicle being driven.
- A vehicle you own can be impounded if driven by a person with a suspended or revoked license and if you allow a minor without a license or permit to drive it.
- Altering or possessing an altered driver license can result in jail time, and may result in license suspension or revocation. It is unlawful to display to others or have in your possession a driver’s license that is invalid or has been altered.
- The consequences of a misstatement on a driver license application may include revocation of the license privilege.
- Law enforcement uses red lights to pull drivers over because of a suspected traffic, equipment or other legal violation. It is against the law to take or attempt evasive action in an effort to avoid a law enforcement stop. When a law enforcement vehicle pulls behind you and turns on one or more red lights, you are being pulled over for a traffic stop.
- Begin by slowing down and signaling your intention to pull to the right and stop.
- Never go to the left or onto a median.
- Get as far over to the right-hand side of the street, road or highway as you can and stop your vehicle completely.
If you are being pulled over for a traffic stop on a freeway, pull completely onto the shoulder before stopping. If the officer uses a loudspeaker to direct you to the next exit and off the freeway, do as instructed.
If you do not feel safe stopping on the side of the road because it is dark, isolated, or if there is not enough room, you should still signal your intention to pull over. Signal, slow down, and use a hand wave to indicate to the law enforcement officer your intention to proceed to a freeway exit, well-lit area, or other safer place to stop.
Once you have pulled to the right and stopped, simply keep your hands on the steering wheel and wait for the officer to let you know what to do. Turn off your vehicle’s ignition, but do not begin fishing around in your car for your insurance, license or registration until instructed to do so.
If you are being stopped at night, it is a good idea to turn on your inside or dome light so that the officer can see you. Remember to keep both of your hands on the steering wheel until instructed to do differently. Follow the officer’s instructions until he or she indicates you are free to proceed, then continue carefully and safely on your way.