Washington Graduated License Program - WA Graduated Drivers License Requirements
Although Washington does not have an official graduated license program, the licensing procedure for teenage license applicants is governed by laws that are very similar to the graduated drivers license laws of other states. According to the graduated drivers license requirements, applicants under the age of 18 cannot be issued with a full drivers license, instead they are provided with a learners permit and consequently with an intermediate drivers license. The graduated license laws set the minimum age for a full drivers license to 18.
The reason why teenagers are treated differently from drivers license applicants of other ages is the fact that teens have significantly higher crash rates than drivers of any other age group. Over 20% of teenage drivers have a traffic accident in their first year of driving.
There are a number of factors that that contribute to these ghastly statistics and lack of driving experience is just one of them. Of course, experience is very important when it comes to driving. It allows to you anticipate and avoid situation that can lead to a traffic accident. However, lack of driving experience is less dangerous when a driver recognizes the fact that he or she is not able to deal with many complex on-road conditions and takes active steps to avoid them. Statistics show us that those who received their Washington drivers license after the age of 20 are less likely to have a traffic accident in their first year of driving than those who got their license sooner, although they have just as much driving experience. This happens because older people are more likely to anticipate the consequences of their actions, something many teenagers fail to do. Finally, there is also the fact that teenagers are more likely to be distracted while driving. The distraction can come in a form of a radio station, an incoming phone call or even friends engaging in horse play in the back seat. Either of these things can lead to an accident.
Washington graduated drivers license system targets all these factors and aims at reducing the risks of driving as much as possible. This is achieved by a number of measures, such as breaking up the licensing procedure into a number of separate steps and enforcing numerous restrictions on teenage drivers. Studies conducted in multiple states show that such measures can save lives and that is what the graduated drivers license law is all about.
WA Graduated Drivers License Steps
What is the point in breaking up the licensing procedure into multiple steps? Why not just issue me with a full drivers license right away? I passed my Washington permit test and road skills exam, doesn't it prove that I am good enough to be out on the road?
These are the most common questions that can come to a mind of an average teenager who is going through the Washington graduated license program and you can't call them unreasonable. If the student is able to pass all required tests, doesn't it mean that he's fit to drive? Well, in most cases, it does not. You can pass the permit test, sure - just read the drivers license handbook, take a few Washington practice permit tests and you'll have no troubles passing the exam. You can nail your driving test - just take a few driving lessons with a professional driving instructor and he will teach you the skills you need to pass your drivers test. But this does not mean that you can deal with every possible on-road situation.
The graduated drivers license requirements mandate that the licensing procedure is to be broken down into a series of steps and the drivers license applicants is held at each step for some time. This ensures that the driver gains certain skills and experience before proceeding to the next level. Every new level brings new privileges and provides more advanced challenges to the driver, at the same time guarding him from committing the most common mistakes. At the moment, there are the following Washington graduated drivers license stages:
- Learners permit (instruction permit)
- Intermediate drivers license
- Full drivers license
You can obtain detailed information about each one of these steps in the official Washington drivers handbook. The book is available for download free of charge.
Washington Instruction Permit
The minimum age for applying for an instruction permit is 15, provided you are already signed up for a Washington drivers ed program. If you do not want to sign up for driver ed at this stage, you will need to wait until you are at least 15 years, 6 months in order to be eligible for a permit.
The application procedure is fairly simple - you show up at one of the DOL offices, take a Washington permit test, present the required paperwork and collect your permit. Once you got the permit, you can start practicing your driving, but you must make sure to observe the following permit restrictions:
- Supervising driving only. You must have a supervising driver seated next to you whenever you drive. The supervising driver must have at least 5 years of driving experience and hold a valid drivers license.
- No cell phones. You cannot use a cell phone or any other electronic device while driving.
You must hold your Washington learners permit for at least 6 months and you must be at least 16 years old before you can take a road skills test and apply for your drivers license. During this time, you must also complete your drivers education class, the DOL will ask you to present the certificate of completion at the time of your application for a drivers license. You must also complete at least 50 hours of supervised driving. When you satisfy these requirements, you will be granted an intermediate drivers license.
Washington Intermediate Drivers License
According to the graduated drivers license requirements, an intermediate license is issued to to applicants who are under the age of 18 and who satisfy the requirements of the previous stage of the program. Having an intermediate license grants you the privilege of driving without a supervisor, but you must still observe the following license restrictions:
- Curfew. You cannot drive between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. alone. If you need to be on the road at this time, make sure to have a parent, legal guardian or another licensed driver who is at least 25 years of age supervise you. Just like with a permit, the supervising driver must be seated next to you and be ready to take control of the vehicle.
- Passenger restrictions. For the first six months following the issuance of the license, no passengers under the age of 20 are allowed in the vehicle. Exceptions are made for the immediate family members. After the first 6 months, no more than 3 passengers under the age of 20 are allowed in the vehicle.
- Seat belts. Everyone in the vehicle must wear a seat belt.
- Cell phones. You cannot operate any electronic devices while driving.
Washington graduated drivers license laws apply only to drivers who are under 18 years of age. All license restrictions are lifted once the driver reaches the age of 18.