Under 18 Driving Laws in California


While many teenagers are eager to get in a car and on the road by themselves, each state has different requirements that ensure each individual goes through the appropriate process. In California, individuals under 18 years old must work up to receiving a full license by going through a series of tests and courses.

Obtaining and Driving with a Permit

  • In order to receive a provisional permit, the candidate must be at least 15 1/2 but under 18 years old. The applicant must go to his local Department of Motor Vehicles in order to complete the application form DL 44 with a parent or guardian's signature, give a thumb print, have his photograph taken and pass a vision test. He must also come prepared to provide his full name, social security number, birth date and legal presence. After passing an examination on traffic laws, he will receive a provisional permit that allows him to drive only with a parent, guardian or spouse who is over the age of 25 years and has a license in the state of California. Furthermore, the person must be sitting close enough to the driver that she could take over the wheel if necessary.

Driver's Education and the Road Test

  • Anyone between the ages of 15 1/2 and 17 1/2 must show proof that she has either completed or is currently enrolled in driver education and driving training courses. Those between 17 1/2 and 18 years old do not need to take either of the courses in order to receive their permits; however, they will not be allowed to take their driver's test until they are 18 years old. Candidates who have taken the courses may take the test once they are 16 years old, have had their permits for at least six months and have verifiably completed 50 hours of practice with an adult 25 years or older who satisfies the aforementioned requirements. At least 10 of the 50 hours must have been completed at night. Once the candidate passes the road test, she must have a licensed driver aged 25 or older with her if she is transporting any passengers under the age of 20 or driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. during the first 12 months.


  • The California DMV states that "When reasonable transportation is not available and it is necessary for you to drive, the law grants the following exceptions for minors to drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. or to transport an immediate family member unaccompanied unsupervised." Exceptions apply if there is a medical necessity; however, a note must be signed by the driver's physician documenting the need. Traveling to school or school authorized activities count if the note is signed by the school principal, dean or her designee. The person may also drive by his own necessity or necessity of an immediate family member with a note signed by a parent or legal guardian. If the person is legally emancipated, no documentation is needed as long as he has provided the DMV with proof of his emancipation.

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  • Photo Credit driver image by Ivanna Buldakova from Fotolia.com
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