The state of Wisconsin has its own version of a graduated drivers license system that targets teenage drivers and aims at reducing the number of traffic accidents among drivers of this age group. The Wisconsin graduated drivers license system is very similar to the graduated license laws of other states, it divides the licensing procedure into a number of smaller steps and utilizes mandatory drivers education classes for teaching young drivers the dangers of driving.
Sine the Wisconsin graduated license laws affect only teen drivers, many youngsters view them as an unfair way of treatment and partially, they are correct. Some states, like Maryland, for example, treat all newly licensed drivers the same way and have them go through the same graduated license steps and procedures. A newly licensed driver with no driving experience is a threat to himself and other drivers on the road and this is a fact. Driving experience is what helps drivers judge the situation correctly and take actions that prevent a possible traffic accident and new drivers simply don't have the required skills to do so.
However, there is also a strong argument behind the point of view that teen drivers should be subjected to more restrictions and limitations than older drivers. Statistics speak of themselves - one in every five teenage drivers have a traffic accident within a year of obtaining their Wisconsin drivers license. In addition to that, there is another fact to consider - traffic accidents is a number one cause of death for people between 15 and 20 years of age. Clearly, this situation calls for strong actions that may correct the current state of matters.
So what does the Wisconsin graduated license law actually does to reduce the number of traffic accidents among teenagers and is it an effective system that should be left in place or should the state look for some alternatives?
The graduated license program achieves its goals in two ways. First of all, the law mandates that everyone who applies for a learners permit before the age of 18 completes a Wisconsin drivers education program. State-approved drivers ed classes consist of at least 30 hours of classroom instruction time and 6 hours of driving with a professional instructor. Similar drivers ed requirements are in place in most states around the country today and they have been shown to do a great job of preparing teens for their future on public roads. The classroom portion of drivers ed teaches young drivers the hazards of driving and provides them with the knowledge required for avoiding these hazards. Once the classroom portion of the class is completed, students also get a chance to apply to newly acquired skills in the actual vehicle while being supervised by a professional driver. Of course, six hours of driving experience is not enough for becoming a confident driver and that's where the teenager's parents come in. The parents are required to provide the license applicant with a certain number of driving hours. During these practice sessions, the student gains more confidence behind the wheel and hopefully develops safe driving habits.
Wisconsin Graduated License Steps
In addition to the measures mentioned above, the Wisconsin graduate drivers license law breaks the licensing procedure into a number of steps or levels instead of granting teenage drivers with full driving privileges right away. Drivers ed classes, behind the wheel lessons, supervised driving hours and various permit and license restrictions are all part of these steps and only once the drivers license applicant completes all of the steps, a full drivers license is issued.
The key stages of the graduated license law are:
- Learners permit (instruction permit)
- Probationary or intermediate license
- Full drivers license
Keep in mind: according to the official Wisconsin drivers handbook, the graduated drivers license laws and restrictions apply only to those who are under 18 years of age. If you are 18 years old or older, the Wisconsin graduate driver license law does not apply to you and you can obtain your drivers license through a much more simple procedure.
Wisconsin Instruction Permit
The minimum age for applying for a Wisconsin instruction permit is 15 years, 6 months. By this time, you have to be already enrolled in a state-approved drivers education class. If you have not completed the classroom portion of the class yet, you should be within 60 days of starting your behind the wheel sessions.
On the day of your application, you will be required to take a vision exam and a Wisconsin permit test. The test covers the state driving rules, road signs and safe driving practices, but if you already completed your classroom portion of the drivers ed class, you should not worry about it as you should already know all these things. Those who have not finished the class yet should read the drivers license handbook and take a few Wisconsin practice tests prior to attempting to pass the real knowledge exam.
Once you receive your drivers permit, you can start driving with a qualified driving instructor, a parent or any designated driver who is at least 21 years of age. If you are under 18, the supervising driver must be designated by your parents in writing. At this stage, you are not allowed to drive alone no matter the circumstances.
Other Wisconsin instructional permit restrictions concern the passengers that can be present in the vehicle while you are practicing your driving skills. If you are supervised by a parent or legal guardian, only your immediate family members can ride with you as passengers. If you are at least 16 years of age, in addition to the supervising driver, one more passenger who is at least 25 years of age, is currently licensed and has at least two years of driving experience, is allowed to ride with you. This passenger must occupy the back seat in the vehicle.
Your learners permit is valid for 12 months and you must hold it for at least six months before you can take your Wisconsin drivers test and get a probationary license. During this stage, you are also expected to finish your drivers education class and complete at least 30 hour of driving with your parents, with 10 hours being done at nighttime.
If you are convicted of a traffic violation within this period, your holding time is reset and you have to wait another six months before you can apply for a license.
Wisconsin Probationary Drivers License
Once you fulfill the graduated license requirements of the previous stage and pass your drivers test, you are granted with a probationary drivers license. The main different between a probationary license and a learners permit is that the probationary license allows you to drive without being supervised by an adult driver under certain conditions. You have to observe the following intermediate license restrictions until you get a full drivers license:
- Only two passengers are allowed in the vehicle for the first 9 months after receiving a probationary license. Within this period, only one passenger who is under 21 years of age is allowed.
- Curfew. You can drive alone only between 5 a.m. and midnight. For the rest of the time, you cannot drive unless you are driving between home, work and school or unless there is a supervising driver is seated next to you. While driving at night, only one passenger who is not an immediate family member is allowed to be in the vehicle.
If you break these restrictions or are convicted of a traffic violation, these restrictions may be extended for anoher six months.
As you can see, if you follow all Wisconsin graduated drivers license rules immaculately, it won't take you too long to get a drivers license. On the contrary, breaking the graduated license rules and restrictions may increase the waiting time quite significantly.