Minnesota Graduated Drivers License
Newly licensed drivers rarely have much driving experience, which may lead to dire consequences. This is why most states have developed graduate drivers license laws that were designed to safeguard young and inexperienced drivers. Minnesota graduated drivers license program targets drivers who are under 18 years of age and divides the licensing procedure into a number of separate steps. Each level of the Minnesota graduate drivers license teaches the young driver a new set of skills and grants him with additional driving privileges.
Many young drivers consider the graduate license laws to be unfair, because they only target teen drivers who are under 18 years of age and not all drivers who just got a drivers license. This is understandable and young drivers have a good point - shouldn't every inexperienced driver be treated the same way, no matter the age? Some states, such as Maryland, have absolutely all first time drivers license applicants to go through the same stages of the graduate drivers license program. However, they do make distinctions when it comes to the learners permit restrictions and drivers who are over the age of 24 do not have to observe the same nighttime and passenger restrictions as teenagers. These age specific restrictions are commonly used in order to address some of the age-related behavioral traits, such as proneness to taking risks and failure to predict the consequences of one's actions.
The situation is different in Minnesota where the graduated drivers license law applies only to those who choose to apply for a Minnesota drivers license before the age of 18 and is based on the statistics that show that teen drivers have the highest crash rates among drivers of all age groups. Young drivers under 20 years of age are highly likely to be involved in a traffic accident and one in every five drivers has an accident during the first year of driving. The graduated drivers license law tries to correct the situation with additional education, extended holding periods for a learners permit and provisional license and various restrictions that are placed onto teenage drivers.
Please remember: the Minnesota graduated drivers license law addresses only those who are applying for a Minnesota learners permit or drivers license before the age of 18. If you apply for a drivers license when you are 18 years of age or older, you will not have to follow these rules and can apply for a drivers license through a simplified procedure.
Minnesota Graduated License Stages
One of the main mechanisms that are utilized by the Minnesota graduated license program is dividing the licensing procedure into a number of separate steps or levels. As the driver proceeds through these stages, new experience and driving skills are gained and the driver receives additional driving privileges. Once the applicant fulfills all graduated license requirements, all restrictions are removed and the driver receives a full drivers license.
The Minnesota graduated drivers license program contains the following steps:
- Learners permit or instruction permit
- Provisional drivers license
- Full unrestricted drivers license
Minnesota Learners Permit
The minimum age for applying for a learners permit is 15. By this time, you must already be enrolled in a drivers education program and the classroom portion of the class must be completed. The Department of Public Safety requires you to present your official certificate of completion, the Blue Card, on the day of your application for a permit. Once ready, you can visit a nearest drivers license testing center and take your Minnesota permit test. Although the test is not especially hard, you should still invest time into preparing for it as more than a half of all applicants fail the knowledge exam the first time they take it. If you want to see what type of questions you may expect on the exam, you may take a free Minnesota practice permit test.
Once you pass your learners permit test and receive your Minnesota learners permit, you can start driving under the supervision of another licensed driver. You must observe the following graduated license requirements at this stage:
- No driving alone. You must have a licensed driver who is at least 21 years of age seated in the font seat next to you whenever you drive. There are no exceptions to this rule.
- Seat belts. Seat belts must be worn by everyone in the vehicle.
- Cell phones. You are not allowed to use a cell phone or any other communication device while driving. This means no texting as well as talking on the phone.
The driver's permit must be held for at least six months before you can take a road test and receive your provisional drivers license. During this period, you must finish your Minnesota drivers education class and complete at least 30 hours of supervised driving with a licensed driver who is at least 21 years of age. Ten of these hours must be done at night time.
If you are convicted of a moving traffic violation during this stage, the waiting period is restarted and you have to wait another six months before you become eligible for a provisional license.
Minnesota Provisional Drivers License
Provisional drivers license is the second stage of the Minnesota graduated drivers license program. The minimum age for applying for a Minnesota provisional drivers license is 16. This means that even though the minimum permit holding period is six months and you obtain your learners permit when you are 15 years of age, you will still need to wait until you are at least 16 before you can take a Minnesota drivers test. The graduated license requirements of the previous stage must be fulfilled prior to taking the exam.
The provisional license gives you more driving privileges than the learners permit and allows unsupervised driving under most conditions. However, at this stage, you are still a newbie and you will have to observe the following provisional license restrictions:
For the first six months following the issuance of the license:
- Night time restrictions. No driving between midnight and 5 a.m. unless a supervising driver who is at least 25 years of age is present in the vehicle. Exceptions can be made if you are traveling between home and work or are participating or traveling to a school activity.
- Passenger restrictions. Only one passenger under the age of 20 is allowed to be in the vehicle unless the driver is accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
- Seat belts. Seat belts must be worn by everyone present in the vehicle.
- No cell phones. The licensee cannot use a cell phone while driving.
For the second six months, no more than three passengers under the age of 20 are allowed to be in the vehicle unless the driver is accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
Please note that passenger restrictions don't apply to the members of the driver's immediate family.
If you meet these requirements, you can apply for a regular class D drivers license once you have held your provisional drivers license for at least 12 consecutive months without being convicted for more than one moving violation and without any convictions of alcohol/controlled substance related violation.
Although not a part of the Minnesota graduated drivers license system, we feel that every teen driver must be aware of the Vanessa's law that dictates the punishment for those who drive without a license to do so. The official Minnesota drivers handbook contains a detailed description of the law.
If an unlicensed teen driver is involved in a crash related violation or an alcohol/controlled substance related accident, the driver cannot be given a drivers license until the age of 18. If the driver wants to apply for a drivers license at the age of 18, he must take the following actions:
- pay the reinstatement fee of up to $680
- pass the learner's permit test
- obtain a learners permit, hold it for at least six months
- pass the road test
If a licensed teen driver is involved in a crash related violation or an alcohol/controlled substance related accident, the driver cannot regain a drivers license until the age of 18. If the driver wants to apply for a drivers license at the age of 18, he must take the following actions:
- pay the reinstatement fee of up to $680 and fulfill all license reinstatement requirements
- complete the classroom portion of drivers ed
- take a drivers permit test
- hold the instruction permit for at least three months
- complete the road test
As you can see, careless driving and driving without a license can cost you not only a lot of money, but also disadvantage you in the sense that you won't be able to get a drivers license until you are at least 18 years of age.