What Is the Legal Driving Age in California?

Most teens are excited to get a driver’s license and enjoy the freedom that comes with it. Some parents are equally pleased that they will no longer bear the burden of driving their teens to school, activities, and social events.

However, it’s important to understand the steps to get a license. Being a safe and responsible driver means following the rules to avoid car accidents and other roadway hazards. A 20-year study from 2002 to 2021 found that young drivers (under 21) are four times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than more experienced drivers (21 and over).

Some of this data can be chalked up to experience, but education also makes a difference. That’s why every state has developed a Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program to phase in driving privileges for teens. In the State of California, residents 16 and over are permitted to obtain a license, but there are several steps involved in the process.

How To Obtain a License

Obtaining a license can’t happen before a driver reaches the age of 16, but preparations can start beforehand. Teens who plan to obtain a license must first complete a driver education course, obtain an instruction permit, practice with approved drivers, and take driving tests.

Complete Driver Education

The first step to obtaining a permit and license is to complete driver education and training programs. These courses help young drivers learn to operate a motor vehicle, understand driving laws, and behave appropriately on roadways for the safety of themselves and others.

At the age of 15, teens in California are eligible to start a driver education program, but they cannot obtain an instruction permit until age 15½. Drivers 17½ or over do not need to complete a driver education course to obtain an instruction permit, and those over 18 may progress to a license without obtaining a permit. 

The California DMV may accept driver education from other states with proof of completion and a DL 33 form.

Obtain an Instruction Permit

A provisional driver’s license, or instruction permit, is available for drivers ages 15½ to 18. Before you can obtain one, you must provide a certificate of completion of driver education or show enrollment in a driver education/training course.

You must also provide proof of age with a birth certificate or similar legal document and complete a Driver’s License or ID Card application (DL 44), which must be signed by a parent or guardian. From there, you have to:

  • Pay an application fee
  • Provide a fingerprint
  • Pass a vision exam
  • Pass a written exam/knowledge test
  • Have a photo taken

Once you have obtained an instruction permit, you may practice driving with approved supervision before you take a practical driving test to obtain your driver’s license. This will help you learn real-world practices for road and highway safety.

Practice Driving

You are not allowed to drive alone without a driver’s license. Those with an instruction permit may drive only when accompanied by another person with a valid driver’s license. This person could be a parent/guardian or anyone over the age of 25, as well as a certified driving instructor.

Take the Driving Test

When you reach the age of 16 and you’ve held your instruction permit for at least six months, you may apply for a driver’s license. To obtain it, you’ll have to provide proof of completed driver education and driver training programs, have parents/guardians and your driving instructor certify that you’ve completed 50 hours of driving practice, and pass the driving test.

Becoming a Safe and Responsible Driver

New drivers are more likely to make mistakes due to a lack of experience, but education and practice with more experienced drivers can help. When you behave cautiously, follow the rules, and avoid hazards like distracted driving or driving under the influence, you can enjoy the freedom of driving and help to keep roads safe for everyone.

Contact the San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm of Mission Personal Injury Lawyers Today To Get More Information

If you’ve been injured in San Diego or Chula Vista, please call Mission Personal Injury Lawyers for a free case evaluation with a personal injury lawyer or contact us online.

We proudly serve San Diego County and throughout California.

Mission Personal Injury Lawyers
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(619) 777-5555

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(619) 722-3032

We also serve the state of Texas. Contact our personal injury law office in El Paso for legal assistance today.

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