Today, most of the states have graduated license programs that were designed to keep young drivers safe during their first years of driving. California is no exception to this rule and the California graduated drivers license program features the same key elements as GDL programs of other states, such as mandatory drivers education programs, supervised driving hours and prolonged drivers permit holding periods. The California graduated license program applies only to drivers under age of 18, so if you are already 18 years old, you may follow a simplified application procedure when trying to obtain your California drivers license. Keep in mind that even though most of the GDL rules don't apply to you, you will still have to take the California permit test!
Main Stages of the California Graduated License Program
The graduated license system in California is very similar to that of many other states and it features the same three stages:
- Instruction permit
- Restricted license
- Full drivers license
Applying for a California learners permit is the first step towards obtaining a drivers license no matter how old you are, however license applicants under 18 are subject to additional GDL restrictions. The reason why graduated license restrictions apply to teen drivers only is the fact that teens are much more likely to be involved in a traffic accident and thus need more education and training before they are allowed to hit the road.
Step 1 - California Learners Permit
The minimum age when you can apply for the California driver's permit is 15 and ½. According to the graduated license law, if you are applying for the learners permit before you turn 17 and ½, you must complete one of the California drivers education classes and sign up for driving lessons with a professional instructor prior to submitting the application. You can apply for your permit at any drivers license office where you will have to take a vision exam and the California DMV permit test. If you pass the exams, you will be issued with your learner's permit. If you not sure how you can prepare for the permit test, grab yourself a copy of the California drivers manual, the book covers everything you need to know for the knowledge test. Once done reading the book, take a free California practice permit test to see if you missed anything. Don't go to the office until you can answer 9 out of 10 sample questions every time you take the test! There is more than one sample exam on the site and you are more than welcome to help yourself to this California DMV practice test or this California practice driving test. Investing more time into learning road rules and traffic signs now will certainly save you some headache at your local DMV office!
The graduated license law states that the permit must be held for at least 6 months before you can apply for your drivers license. During this time, you cannot drive unless you are accompanied by another licensed drivers and you must complete at least 50 hours of supervised driving with your parents and 6 hours of driving lessons with a professional driving instructor.
Step 2 - California Restricted Driver's License
If you fulfill the requirements of stage 1, you can proceed to stage 2, which is obtaining an intermediate drivers license. You must pass the California driving test and your parents will need to provide a statement that you have completed the required number of supervised driving hours. Once you receive your restricted license, you can start driving alone, but you must still observe the curfew and passenger restrictions.
Step 3 - California Drivers License
You can obtain your unrestricted California drivers license once you've held the intermediate license for at least 6 months or when you turn 18. Starting this moment, you have the same driving privileges as other drivers around you.
Who Needs to Observe the California Graduated License Law
The graduated license system in California is relevant for everyone who is under 18 years of age. If you are 17 and ½, you can get your drivers permit without taking any drivers ed or driving classes, but you must still observe all California permit restrictions until you turn 18.
California Graduated License Restrictions
In California, the graduated license restrictions can be divided into restrictions that apply to the permit holders and those that apply to the restricted license.
California permit restrictions:
- Supervised driving only
- Must complete drivers ed
- Must take professional driving lessons
California provisional license restrictions:
- Passenger restrictions
You can always find the relevant rules and latest updates on the subject in the California driver's handbook.