Tennessee Graduated License Program - TN Graduated Drivers License Requirements
If you choose to apply for your drivers license in Tennessee before you are 18 years old, you will have to go through the Tennessee graduated drivers license program. The graduated license laws in Tennessee are very similar to those in many other states and they aim at reducing the number of casualties on public roads. Graduated drivers license requirements in Tennessee are not as strict as the requirements in some other states and the law does not require teen drivers to go through compulsory drivers education classes, however the program still retains all other graduated drivers license elements.
So what exactly is the graduated drivers license program? The graduated license program is a number of driving laws that govern the licensing procedure for teenage drivers and enforce certain restrictions upon them. Here is how the official Tennessee drivers handbook defines the purpose, focus and goals of the program.
Purpose. To incrementally teach young drivers how to drive by guiding their progression toward full, unrestricted driving.
Focus. To increase the young driver's awareness of the responsibility entrusted to those granted a privilege of driving.
Goal. To increase the awareness through requiring minimum levels of driving experience and safe driving history (record) before allowing teenage drivers to receive a “full-fledged” class D driver license.
Translated to simpler words, this basically states that the main purpose of the Tennessee graduated drivers license program is to ensure that teenagers get some driving experience in a safe driving environment before going onto public roads and that during this time the teenager must learn to appreciate the dangers of driving. In reality, it is very hard to make a teenage driver treat driving seriously and this is where the learners permit restrictions come into play. Permit restrictions are utilized in order to ensure that teenagers don't get into the situations that are known to cause traffic accidents. Of course, restrictions only work if you observe them.
The reason why the state targets teenage drivers and not every new driver out there is because teens have the highest accident rates among drivers of all age groups. According to the current stats, traffic accidents is a number one cause of death for people between 15-20 years of age. One in every five teen drivers have a traffic collision during their first year of driving. These are the reasons why the Tennessee graduated drivers license requirements concern only teenagers.
Tennessee Graduated License Stages
If you decide to go for your Tennessee drivers license before you turn 18, you will not be able to achieve a full drivers license right away. According to the current law, you will have to go through multiple stages, each stage granting you more driving privileges, until you get to a full unrestricted driver license. You cannot graduate to the next level until you fulfill all requirements of the stage you're currently on.
At the moment, the graduated drivers license program in Tennessee has the following key stages:
- Learners permit (Instructional permit)
- Intermediate restricted license
- Intermediate unrestricted license
- Full drivers license
Please remember: the graduated drivers license program is applicable only to those who choose to apply for a Tennessee drivers license before they reach the age of 18. If you are 18 years old or older, you don't have to follow these requirements.
Tennessee Learners Permit
The minimum age for applying for a drivers permit is 15. Before you can be issued with a permit, the Department of Safety requires you to pass a Tennessee permit test. If you don't pass the test the first time, you may have to wait for up to 30 days until you can retake the exam, so you better make sure that you are well prepared. Take a free Tennessee permit practice test to see if you are ready to hit the real thing.
Once you pass the test and get your learners permit, you can start preparing for your road exam. Although the permit allows you to drive a vehicle, it comes with the following permit restrictions that you must observe at all times:
- No driving alone. Whenever you go for a drive, you must have a licensed driver who is at least 21 years of age, seated in the front seat next to you.
- Curfew. You cannot drive between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
- Seat belts. Passengers between 4 and 17 years of age must wear seat belts.
You must hold your Tennessee learners permit for at least 180 days prior to applying for a drivers license. During this time, you must complete at least 50 hours of supervised driving with your parents, 10 of these hours must be done at night. Your parents will need to provide certificate of driving experience on the official form SF 1256 that can be obtained at any DOS office or downloaded online.
During this stage, you cannot accumulate more than 6 points on your permit within 180 days preceding your driving test. If you accumulate more than 6 points, you will have to wait until those points clear and you keep a point free record for 180 days.
Intermediate Restricted License
If you are at least 16 years of age, fulfilled the requirements of the previous stage and passed your Tennessee drivers test, you are issued an intermediate restricted license. The license is an upgrade of your permit and it allows you to drive without a supervising driver, however it still has the following license restrictions:
- Curfew. No driving alone between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. If you want to drive during this time, make sure to have a supervising driver who is at least 21 years old with you.
- Seat belts. All passengers between 4-17 years of age must wear seat belts.
These restrictions must be observed for at least 12 months. If you are not found violating the state traffic rules and the graduated license requirements during this period, you can be issued with an unrestricted intermediate drivers license. You can obtain more information about the penalties for various traffic violations in the Tennessee drivers license handbook.
Intermediate Unrestricted Drivers License
The intermediate unrestricted license is very similar to a full Tennessee driver license - it does not have a curfew or passenger restrictions. The only difference is that all underage passengers present in the vehicle must wear seat belts. A full drivers license will be issued to you once you reach the age of 18.