West Virginia Graduated Drivers License
Young drivers belong to a high risk group when it comes to driving and that is why the Division of Motor Vehicles in West Virginia has developed a number of special measures to keep teen drivers safe. These measures were combined under the West Virginia graduated drivers license program, a set of laws, restrictions and requirements all designed with traffic safety in mind. The West Virginia graduated drivers license requirements apply only to drivers who are under 18 years of age, if you are 18 year old or older, you do not have to observe these requirements or restrictions. The DMV in West Virginia takes the graduated license rules very seriously, your graduated license can be suspended for just a few minor offenses and once the suspension period is over, you will have to start the whole application all over again.
Here is what the official West Virginia drivers manual says about the graduated drivers license system:
A 3-phase graduated licensing program, for ages 15 to 18, which allows young drivers to develop their driving skills and self-confidence in a series of safe, measured steps. Each phase has its own requirements and restrictions.
This is a very brief summary of what the graduated drivers license system really is and what are the goals of the program. We will try to elaborate a little on what the program really is and why it applies to teenage drivers only.
One the the main risk factors for drivers who just got their first West Virginia drivers license is lack of driving experience. Although not many people realize it, driving is a very complex process that requires the driver to take multiple actions simultaneously. You don't have to look far for examples, just take the process of entering a highway. You have limited time to speed up, match your speed to that of vehicles traveling on the highway, make sure that you won't impede anyone and don't cause an accident, then merge into traffic. If you are driving a vehicle with manual transmission, add shifting gears on top of that. Experience is what allows drivers to do all these things without even noticing them. Experience also allows drivers to identify situations that can potentially become dangerous and avoid them before they have a chance to develop.
The graduate drivers license system structures the licensing procedure in such way that the drivers license applicants get a chance to obtain the essential driving experience in a relatively safe driving environment. The program enforces a number of driving restrictions that prevent drivers from making the most common mistakes behind the wheel.
You may be asking yourself a question of why does the West Virginia graduated driver license system apply only to drivers who are under 18 years of age if lack of driving experience is to blame for all the trouble? It turns out that lack of driving experience is an important factor, but it is not the only one when it comes to teenage drivers. Statistics that were accumulated around the country for the past decade show that teen drivers exhibit a number of dangerous behavioral traits that put them in extra danger behind the wheel. While most of the older drivers correctly judge their shortage of driving skills and take extra precautions while driving, teenagers usually overestimate their driving ability. Teen drivers are more likely to drive recklessly and are less likely to use safety measures, such as wearing a seat belt. This is why traffic accidents is a number one cause of death for youngsters.
Clearly, the situation called for an intervention from the state and this is how the West Virginia graduated drivers license program came into being. After analyzing the data collected throughout the state, the DMV has introduced the West Virginia learners permit restrictions that apply only to teenage drivers. These restrictions target the known causes of accidents - talking on a cell phone, having too many young passengers in the car, not wearing a seat belt - and should discourage young drivers from doing these things. The DMV means business and in order to get it through to young drivers, the penalties set for breaking these restrictions are very harsh. In most cases, your graduated license is suspended for at least three months and when you come out of the suspension, you are made to go through the whole application procedure from the very beginning.
West Virginia Graduated Drivers License Stages
Today, most states have some form of the graduated license laws and all of them utilize a great idea of breaking the licensing process into multiple stages instead of granting the applicant with full driving privileges right away. As the applicant proceeds through the stages of the graduated license system, additional driving privileges are granted.
The current West Virginia graduated drivers license system has the following stages:
- Instruction permit (level 1 license)
- Intermediate drivers license (level 2 license)
- Full drivers license
Please keep in mind: if you are at least 18 years of age, the graduated drivers license laws do not apply to you and you can be issued with a regular learners permit once you pass the West Virginia permit test. Those who want to see what kind of questions come up on the knowledge exam may take a free West Virginia permit practice test here.
West Virginia Learners Permit
The minimum age for obtaining a West Virginia instruction permit is 15. One of your parents needs to co-sign your application for a learners permit, it is not valid without parental consent. Once you pass your drivers permit test at one of the testing stations and receive your learners permit, you can start driving, provided you have a supervising driver seated next to you. The graduated drivers license law sets the following restrictions onto your level 1 drivers license:
- No driving alone. Whenever you are behind the wheel, you must have a licensed driver 21 years old or older seated next to you. The supervising driver must be prepared to take control of the vehicle at any time.
- Curfew. There is a nighttime driving restriction that does not allow you to drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
- Passenger restrictions. You cannot carry more than two passengers apart from the supervising driver.
- Seat belts. Everyone present in the vehicle must wear a seat belt.
- No cell phones. You cannot talk on a cell phone, neither hand-held, nor equipped with a hands-free device. Exceptions to the rule are possible if you are calling an emergency service, such as 911.
You must hold a learners permit for at least six months without receiving any moving violations. If you receive one moving violation, the waiting period is restarted and you have to wait another six months. If you receive a second moving violation, your learners permit is suspended for 90 days. Once the suspension is over, you will have to go through the application procedure all over again, that means taking all of the required tests and submitting the paperwork.
During this permit holding period, you must meet other requirements of the West Virginia graduated license program. Before you can graduate to the next stage of the program, you must either complete at least 30 hours of supervised driving or participate in a state-approved West Virginia drivers ed class. Although the state allows you to choose between taking drivers ed and getting the supervised hours, there is nothing that prevents you from doing both.
West Virginia Intermediate Drivers License
An intermediate license, also called a level 2 drivers license, can be issued to those who have already fulfilled all learners permit requirements, are at least 16 years of age and have passed the West Virginia drivers test. Although the provisional license allows you to start driving alone, it is not a full drivers license yet. The following intermediate license restrictions apply:
- Curfew. The nighttime restriction does not allow you to drive alone between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. You can ignore the nighttime driving restrictions if you have a licensed driver at least 21 years of age seated next to you or if you are traveling to/from a school or employment related activity.
- Passenger restrictions. No more than three passengers under the age of 19 who are not members of the driver's immediate family are allowed to be in the vehicle.
- Seat belts must be worn by everyone.
- Cell phones. Cell phones are banned and you cannot use one unless you are making a call in an emergency situation.
The consequences of breaking these intermediate license restrictions or receiving a ticket for a different moving violation are also quite severe. If you receive one conviction, you have to participate in a mandatory traffic safety course. Your second conviction will see your driving privilege suspended for 90 days and you will have to start the graduated drivers license program all over again. This means that you will have to take a permit test, get a learners permit, hold it for at least six months and then take the drivers test again. Same thing happens if you lose your provisional license for any other reason.
If you hold your provisional drivers license conviction-free for at least 12 months, you can apply for a full drivers license. At this point, all provisional license restrictions are lifted and you can drive freely.