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So you’re about to begin driving in California? You’ve come to the right place! We’ve put together a brief summary of important things you will need to know as you work your way through California’s graduated drivers license program. You may want to keep this handy for the next several years until you have received your regular, full-fledged drivers license. Remember, this is only a summary. For complete information, please visit the California Dept. of Motor Vehicles’ website at www.dmv.ca.gov).
You need to be at least 15 years, 6 months old to apply for a California provisional permit (or learners permit). If you are under 17 years, 6 months old, you must also have either completed or be currently enrolled a state-approved drivers education course.
When you’re ready to take your provisional license test, be sure to take the following with you to your local DMV office:
You will need to pass both a vision test and the written, traffic-laws test. You will need to answer at least 39 questions (out of a total of 46) to pass the written test. If you fail the written test, you may retake the test two (2) more times the same day. However, after the third (3rd) failure, you will need to wait at least seven (7) days to go back and take the test again.
Once you pass both the vision and written tests, you will be issued a California Provisional Drivers License. At this point, you are free to begin practice driving so long as there is a licensed driver who’s at least 25 years old, sitting next to you in the front passenger seat. You are not permitted to drive alone.
After you’ve had your provisional permit for at least six (6) months and you have passed your 16th birthday, you are eligible to upgrade to a provisional license (yes, passing a road test is required here!).
Here’s what you will need to take with you to the local DMV office:
You will have three (3) chances to pass the road test. If you fail it, you must wait at least two (2) weeks before going back and trying again.
After you receive your provisional license, you may drive alone so long as you don’t have any collisions or traffic violations, however for the first 12 months, some restrictions still apply:
There are a few exceptions to these restrictions, please contact the California DMV for details. However, you should know that these restrictions are pretty much the norm during the first 12 months after receiving your provisional license.
Once you turn 18, the "provisional" part of your license is considered void. However, you may keep the provisional license until it expires (although it would carry the same privileges a regular drivers license would). If, out of pride, you want the word "provisional" removed as soon as you turn 18, you may ask your local DMV office to issue you a new license for a fee.
California law requires that you must maintain financial responsibility (i.e.—auto insurance coverage) on any vehicle you own or drive. You must carry written proof of your auto insurance whenever you drive as you will need to show it to any law enforcement officer who asks to see it (i.e.—an insurance card issued by your insurance company will suffice).
Minimum Insurance Coverage You Must Have:
If you have an accident and you do not have required insurance coverage, you will lose your license.
Simply put, DON’T drive anytime soon after you’ve been drinking alcohol. Here’s what you will face upon your FIRST (1st) conviction of a California:
As of 2008, it is ILLEGAL to send and/or read text messages while you drive. First offenses carry a $20 fine and repeat offenses carry a $50 fine.
If you are under 18, you may not use a cell phone or any other type of wireless device while you are driving.
If you are 18 or older, you may drive using a hands-free cell phone.
If you are 16 and are applying for a California drivers license, you must have completed six (6) hours of a state-approved online driver education course. Contact your local DMV office for a list of approved online drivers ed courses.