Montana Graduated Drivers License
Today, most of the states recognize the need for additional education and restrictions when it comes to teenagers operating motor vehicles. Montana is no exception to the rule with its graduated drivers license system that applies to everyone who chooses to obtain a drivers license before the age of 18 years. The Montana graduate driver's license law is very similar to the graduated license programs of other states and it is multi-step licensing process that includes drivers education and compulsory permit and license testing at certain stages.
Here is what the official Montana drivers handbook says about the state graduated license program:
“The Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program is a three-step progressive program that allows new drivers, under the age of 18 years, to develop and improve their driving skills in the safest environment possible. The intent of this program is to help reduce the number of motor vehicle accidents involving minors.”
This is exactly what the Montana graduated license program is - a set of measures that were developed in order to address the issue of mortality among teenage drivers. According to national statistics, traffic accidents is a number one cause of death for people between 15 and 20 years of age. This clearly shows that driving is a very dangerous activity for young people and that certain measures must be taken in order to lower the number of teens dying on public roads every year.
The Montana graduated drivers license program targets only those who choose to apply for a Montana drivers license before the age of 18 years. Although some may find this unfair and think that everyone should be treated equally, there are a few good reasons why those who apply for a drivers license when they are a little older have it a bit easier. Older drivers tend to treat driving more seriously and take safety precautions, while youngsters frequently overestimate their driving skills and tend to take risks on the road. Hence the statistics that we see and countermeasures in the form of the graduated license laws.
Montana Graduated License Steps
It was found that dividing the licensing procedure into a number of separate steps, as opposed to issuing an applicant with a full license right away, allows youngsters to gain the essential driving experience in a relatively safe driving environment and reduce their chances of being involved in a traffic accident. Each stage of the system teaches the applicant certain skills and graduating to the next level is only possible once these skills have been properly learned. At the moment, the graduate driver's license system in Montana has the following key stages:
- Learners permit
- Restricted drivers license
- Unrestricted full drivers license
If you are over 18 years of age, you don't have to follow these steps, but you must still submit to the same testing procedures, which means that you will need to pass both the Montana permit test and the drivers test before you can be issued with your drivers license. You may prepare for the permit test by reading the drivers handbook and taking free Montana practice permit tests. For the drivers exam, we suggest that you take at least one or two lessons with a professional driving instructor. A professional driving instructor will be able to pinpoint and correct the shortcomings of your driving skills, significantly raising your chances of passing the exam.
Montana Learner's Permit
There are actually two different types of learner permits available in Montana at the moment. The first one, goes by the name of Traffic Education Learner License (TELL), and, as you might have already guessed from its name, it is bound to a traffic education or drivers education class. You may receive this permit as early as 14 ½ years old, but you must be enrolled and currently taking or have completed a Montana drivers education course. You cannot apply for a TELL if you don't take a traffic education class. While you hold your TELL, you can operate a vehicle only when supervised by a licensed parent or legal guardian.
The second type of a Montana learners permit goes by the name of Learner License. The minimum age for this type of a permit is 15, if you have already completed a drivers education class, or 16, if you haven't. You can see that the state strongly encourages you to participate in a drivers education course, allowing you to get behind the wheel sooner. While you hold a Learner License, you can drive only when supervised by a licensed parent, legal guardian or a licensed driver at least 18 years of age who has been authorized by the parent.
Independently of the age when you got your permit, it must be held for at least six months before you can take a Montana drivers test and receive your first drivers license. During these months, you must complete at least 50 hours of supervised driving instruction, including 10 hours at night. If you are convicted of a moving violation, the waiting period if restarted and you have to wait another six months. Keep this in mind, since your permit in only valid for one year and if it expires, you will have to go through the renewal procedure.
First Year Restricted License
Once you fulfill the requirements of the previous stage of the graduated license program and pass a driver test, you become eligible for your first Montana drivers license. This license is called “First Year Restricted License” and it is not called restricted for no reason. Although the main Montana permit restriction - no driving alone - does not apply to you anymore, there are still certain conditions of you operating under the restricted license. Until you get a full unrestricted license, you have to observe the following rules:
- Curfew. You cannot drive alone between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. If you need to travel during the restricted hours, you will need to have a supervising driver at least 18 years of age accompany you.
- Seat belts. Everyone in the vehicle must wear a seat belt. The total number of the passengers in the vehicle cannot exceed the number of seat belts the vehicle is equipped with.
- Passenger restrictions. For the first six months, no more than one passenger under the age of 18 who is not related to the driver is allowed to be in the vehicle. For the second six months, no more than three passengers under the age of 18 are allowed to be present in the vehicle. Passenger restriction do not apply if you have a supervising driver at least 18 years of age seated next to you.
These restrictions must be observed for at least 12 months or until you turn 18, whatever comes first. There are strict penalties for those who break the rules. If you are caught violating the graduated license law, you get 20 to 60 hours of community service. Your second violation will result in a six-months suspension of your driving privileges.
Your restricted drivers license will turn into a full drivers license automatically once the holding period expires, you do not have to exchange it at the DMV.