The graduated drivers license system in Pennsylvania is very similar to graduated license laws in other states around the country. The Pennsylvania graduated driver's license program targets drivers who are under 18 years of age and it governs the licensing procedure for this age group. Teenage drivers have the highest crash rates among all age groups and the graduated drivers license program was developed specifically to address this issue.
PA Graduated License Steps
The Pennsylvania graduated drivers license system divides the licensing procedure into a number of steps. As the new driver follows these steps, he or she gains the experience and skills required to safely operate a vehicle. The main goal of the graduated license is to teach teenage drivers that driving is a dangerous activity, to make them recognize the consequences that may come from not treating traffic safety seriously. By the time new drivers finish the whole graduated license program, they should have gained enough driving experience to be able to avoid most of the potentially hazardous situations.
The main stages of the Pennsylvania graduated license program are:
- Junior learners permit
- Junior drivers license
- Unrestricted drivers license
Please remember that the graduated drivers license laws do not apply to you if you are over 18 years old. You can apply for your Pennsylvania drivers license omitting most of these steps and restrictions.
Junior Learners Permit
Obtaining a Pennsylvania learners permit is the first step of the graduated license system. You can apply for a permit when you are at least 16 years old. You will need to download the non-commercial learners permit application form DL 180 and have your medical provider fill in the back of the form. Your parents will also need to sign a parental consent form DL-180 TD before you can receive your permit.
Before you can be issued with your junior driving permit, you will need to take a Pennsylvania learners permit test. The test covers the driving rules and road signs and you should start studying for it well in advance if you want to pass the first time you take it. You can learn the rules of the road from a drivers handbook and take a few Pennsylvania practice permit test before you take the real knowledge exam.
When you pass the permit test and receive your drivers permit, you can start practice your driving skills with a supervising driver. At this time, you are not allowed to drive alone and you have to observe the junior permit restrictions, such as:
- No driving alone. You must have a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old or a parent, spouse or legal guardian who is at least 18 years old seated next to you at all times.
- Curfew. You cannot drive between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless your parent, souse or guardian is supervising you.
- Passenger restrictions. The number of passengers that can be present in the vehicle should not exceed the number of available seatbelts. All passengers must wear safety belts.
- No traffic offenses. If you accumulate more than 6 points while driving on your junior permit, the permit will be suspended for 90 days.
You can read more about the graduated license restrictions in the official Pennsylvania drivers handbook that is provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation free of charge.
Junior Driver's License
In order to become eligible for the Pennsylvania junior driver license, you will need to hold your learners permit for at least 6 months, complete at least 50 hours of supervised driving with your parents and pass the driving test. Needless to say, you have to fulfill all requirements of the junior learners permit before you can upgrade to a junior license.
The junior license allows you to drive unsupervised, however, it still has a curfew - 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. - when you must have your parents supervising you. Exceptions can be made if you travel to or from work.
Unrestricted Drivers License
There are two ways you can advance to the third step of the Pennsylvania graduated drivers license program - the unrestricted drivers license. The easiest way to do so is to wait until you turn 18. At this stage, all restrictions are automatically lifted from your junior license and you can enjoy driving whenever and wherever you want.
The other way is a bit harder, but it will allow you to get your full drivers license before you turn 18. You will need to complete all graduated drivers license requirements posed by previous phases and complete a state-approved Pennsylvania drivers education program before you can be considered for the unrestricted license. The junior license must be held for at least 12 months and you must not be involved in a crash for which you are partially or completely responsible within this year. You driving record must also be clear of any violations of the Pennsylvania Vehicle code.