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Apply for Tennessee Drivers License

Tennessee Driver License Application

If you become a Tennessee resident and would like to be able to drive, you will need to apply for a Tennessee drivers license. The exact application procedure depends on your age and whether you have previously held a drivers license issued by a different state or country. Those who choose to submit an application for a Tennessee driver license before the 18th birthday are required to follow the graduated license program and go through a number of intermediate licensing stages. Taking a driving test is a must for all first time Tennessee drivers license applicants.

Driving License - Under 18 Years of Age

Due to the fact that teenagers are highly likely to be involved in a traffic accident, every drivers license applicant under the age of 18 years is required to go through a number of additional procedures that are known as the Tennessee graduated drivers license program. The graduated license program breaks the licensing process into a number of separate steps and graduating to the next step requires an applicant to acquire a certain amount of driving experience and fulfill the requirements of the previous stage.

You can enter the program as early as 15 years of age. At this point, you can visit the Department of Safety, take a vision exam and a permit test and file your application for a Tennessee drivers permit. If you meet the requirements, you are issued with a driver's permit that allows you to start practicing driving while being supervised by another licensed driver. Keep in mind that you have to observe all Tennessee drivers permit restrictions for at least six months and during this time, you are to obtain at least 50 hours of supervised driving experience, including 10 hours at night. These hours must be logged into a special form, SF-1256 and you will present this form at the DOS when you submit your application for a drivers license.

Once you are done with the previous stage and are at least 16 years of age, you are good to schedule your road skills test and apply for an Intermediate Restricted License. That is correct, you do not receive a full drivers license at this stage, you are issued with a provisional license and must observe all Tennessee intermediate license restrictions for a minimum of one year. When the time is up, you are good to upgrade to an Intermediate Unrestricted Drivers License. No driving restrictions will be applied to your intermediate drivers license and you can go ahead and apply for a regular Tennessee driver license once you turn 18.

Drivers License - 18 Years of Age and Older

The application process is much simpler for you since you do not have to follow the graduated license program. However, you are still required to take the same tests as every other license applicant. Go ahead and start by visiting the DOS and taking a driver permit test and a vision exam. If you pass, you can be issued with a Tennessee driver's permit so you can start your driving practice. You do not have to pick up a permit if you do not want to, however if you go that way, you will not be able to practice driving before your driver's license test.

Keep in mind that you must have a supervising driver at least 21 years of age seated in the front seat next to you whenever you are driving. The DOS does not tell you how long you have to hold a permit for before you can apply for a Tennessee drivers license, so you can schedule your driving test as soon as you feel confident enough behind the wheel. The Tennessee drivers license handbook suggests that teenagers are to practice for at least 50 hours before taking the road exam, so you may also follow this recommendation.

Once you pass the road test, you are issued with a full unrestricted Tennessee drivers license.

Required Tests

Driving is deeply integrated into our lives and perhaps that's the reason why we frequently fail to treat it as a highly dangerous activity. For most of us, driving is mundane and we forget that thousands of people die on our roads every year.

In an effort to make the roads safer, the DOS requires all drivers license applicants to undergo a number of testing procedures that help to determine whether the applicant can become a safe and responsible driving. You will have to take a knowledge test, go through vision screening and pass an on-road driving exam before you can be issued with a driver license in Tennessee.

Vision Screening

A vision test is a much for all drivers license applicants, no matter the age and previous driving experience. You are required to have at least 20/40 vision in each eye individually and both eyes together. You are allowed to wear glasses or contact lenses during the screening process, however if you do, a restrictions will be placed onto your driving license that will require you to wear them at all times while driving. Those who are unable to meet these minimum requirements or are unwilling to take the vision exam at the DOS are required to have an eye specialist fill out an eye statement for the DOS to evaluate.

Drivers Knowledge Exam

The knowledge test covers such things as traffic signs and signal, safe driving practices, rules o the road and drug and alcohol awareness. The DOS permit test in Tennessee is roughly divided into equal parts to encompass all of that information. The exam consists of multiple choice questions, each questions has only one correct answer. In most cases, the test would be taken through an electronic testing terminal, however pen-and-paper exams are also available upon request.

Due to high test failure rates, we advise that you take a Tennessee practice drivers test before you go in for the real thing. The practice test will help you determine whether you are ready for the real thing or if you need to study some more.

Driving Test

Taking a Tennessee drivers license test is your chance to prove that you can operate a vehicle without someone supervising you at all times. The driving test must be scheduled in advance, either through the DOS website or over the phone. The Department does not provide vehicles for drivers license testing, so you will need to arrange for the vehicle to take the test in. Once the driving test is completed, you are issued with with an unrestricted Tennessee drivers license or with a n intermediate restricted license, depending on your age at the time when you take the test.

Paperwork Required

In order to reduce the potential for identity fraud, the DOS requires quite a bit of paperwork from everyone who is applying for a driver's license in Tennessee. Be prepared to come up with the following documents:

  • proof of identity
  • proof of Tennessee residency
  • proof of age
  • proof of US citizenship or legal presence
  • Social Security Number

If you are under 18 years of age at the time when the application is submitted, you must also have a parent or legal guardian to sign a teenager affidavit for financial responsibility. By signing this affidavit, the parent assumes financial responsibility for any damages that may result from your driving. On top of that, you will also need to come up with certification for 50 hours of supervised driving (form SF-1256) and proof of school attendance. If you drop out of school while still being under 18 years of age, the DOS will be notified of this fact and your driving privileges will be suspended.