Young Driver

Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 16-24 year olds. Some key contributors to crashes involving teen drivers in Pennsylvania include driver inexperience, driver distractions, driving too fast for conditions and improper or careless turning. PennDOT offers numerous resources for young drivers, as well as parents and guardians, to help keep everyone safe on the road during this time.

PennDOT Teen License Plate

PennDOT offers a license plate for teen drivers, which you can learn about on our motor vehicle website.

What You Need To Know About Pennsylvania's Young Driver Law

PennDOT continually looks for ways to enhance the driver's license issuance process for teens while maintaining a balance between safety and mobility. Pennsylvania's Graduated Driver Licensing Law, which took effect in 1999, and was updated in 2011, was a major enhancement to teen driver safety and has proven effective in reducing crashes and fatalities for 16-and 17-year-olds. The provisions of the law are as follows:

Learner´s Permit

After successfully completing a physical examination, vision screening and knowledge test, young drivers may begin behind-the-wheel practice. Basic driving skills and safe habits are developed under adult-supervised conditions. Requirements under the law include:

  • Six months of learning: A six-month skill-building period to practice and gain experience is required before a young driver may take the road test for a junior license.
  • Supervising adult for permit holder must be at least 21: An experienced, licensed driver aged 21 or older must accompany the young driver at all times.
  • 65 hours of adult-supervised skill building: A parent or guardian must certify (Parent or Guardian Certification Form (DL-180C)) that the young driver’s six months of skill building included at least 65 hours of practical, adult-supervised driving experience. The 65 must include 10 hours of night driving and five hours of driving in poor weather conditions. The night driving and poor weather hours do not apply for a motorcycle learner's permit, however, the 65 hours of practical driving experience must still be achieved.
  • Nighttime driving restriction begins at 11 p.m.: The young driver may not be behind the wheel between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Young drivers may travel for employment and for volunteer or charitable service during these hours, but they must carry proper documentation.
  • Passenger limitation: Young drivers can have only one non-family member under 18 with then in the vehicle. After six months on the junior license, the restriction rises to no more than three passengers under 18. Immediate family members are excluded from the restriction. The restriction also does not apply if a parent or legal guardian are in the vehicle with the young driver. Young drivers who are responsible for a reportable crash or have a traffic violation are bound by the rule restricting young non-family member passengers until they turn 18. In any case, there can be no more passengers in their car than available seat belts.
  • Learner’s permit valid for one year: The learner’s permit will be valid for one year with extensions for those requiring more practice time.
  • Required sanctions for high-risk drivers under age 18: A young driver’s permit will be suspended for 90 days if he or she accumulates six or more points or is convicted of a single high-speed violation (driving 26 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit).
  • For a motorcycle permit holder under 18, as of Aug. 31, 2012, a Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program Basic Rider Course must be successfully completed before a motorcycle license can be issued.

Junior License

Young drivers who graduate to a junior license have satisfactorily completed all learner’s permit requirements, including the road test, but the following restrictions still apply:

  • Required sanctions for high-risk drivers under age 18: A young driver’s junior license will be suspended for 90 days if he or she accumulates six or more points or is convicted of a single high-speed violation (driving 26 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit).
  • Nighttime driving restriction begins at 11 p.m.: Even with a junior license, a young driver may not be behind the wheel between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Exceptions for employment and volunteer or charitable service will apply, but young drivers must carry proper documentation regarding their need to travel.
  • Passenger limitation: Young drivers can have only one non-family member under 18 with then in the vehicle. After six months on the junior license, the restriction rises to no more than three passengers under 18. Immediate family members are excluded from the restriction. The restriction also does not apply if a parent or legal guardian are in the vehicle with the young driver. Young drivers who are responsible for a reportable crash or have a traffic violation are bound by the rule restricting young non-family member passengers until they turn 18. In any case, there can be no more passengers in their car than available seat belts.

Unrestricted License

A full, unrestricted license - typically issued at age 18 - provides unlimited driving privileges to teenagers who have progressed through the graduated system and have an established history of safe driving, If certain conditions are met, some young drivers may qualify for an early license before age 18.

  • Unrestricted license before age 18: A young driver cannot obtain an unrestricted license before age 18 unless he or she has maintained a crash-and conviction-free record for 12 months and has completed an approved driver’s education course. To apply for an unrestricted license before age 18, young drivers must complete a special form, DL-59, and submit it to PennDOT along with a certificate of completion from an approved driver’s education course, An affidavit of consent from a parent, guardian, person in loco parentis or spouse who is at least 18 years of age must also be provided.
  • Passenger limitation: The number of passengers must not exceed the number of seat belts in the vehicle.
  • Required sanctions for high-risk drivers under age 18: A young driver’s unrestricted license will be suspended for 90 days if he or she accumulates six or more points or is convicted of a single high-speed violation (driving 26 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit).

Tips for Teens

  • Always wear your seat belt.
  • Don’t drink and drive. Drinking under the age of 21 is illegal.
  • Don’t talk or text on your cell phone while driving.
  • Obey the speed limit. Going too fast gives you less time to react.
  • Don’t eat or drink while driving.
  • Adjust radio and climate controls before beginning your trip, have your passenger adjust the controls for you or pull over to a safe place to adjust the controls.
  • Since in many cases the teen driver shares a vehicle with a parent/guardian, the driver’s seat and all mirrors should be adjusted prior to beginning a trip.
  • If you cannot see a truck’s mirrors the driver cannot see you.
  • Plan ahead; know where you are going and get directions.
  • Leave early. Give yourself plenty of time to get there.
  • Expect the unexpected. You never know what can happen.

Tips for Parents/Guardians:

Parents/guardians are critical components to keeping teen drivers safe on the roads, as they have the ability to best assess the teen driver's knowledge, skills and maturity. Here are some tips for teaching your teen to drive

  • Set an example.
  • Talk about driving with your teen even before they turn 16.
  • Know the rules of the road.
  • Make sure your vehicle is safe and well-maintained.
  • Be familiar with the tasks and requirements of teaching your teen to drive. Use PennDOT's publication How to Steer Them to Safe Driving.
  • Start out slow and simple, in a low traffic area or a parking lot.
  • Work your way into more difficult driving.
  • Allow your teen to drive in all situations and all kinds of weather.
  • There is no such thing as too much practice.

After Your Teenager Receives His or Her Driver's License - This is a stage where your role is just as if not more critical as when you were teaching them to drive.

  • Establish a parent/teen driving contract.
  • Limit the number of passengers your teen is allowed to have in their vehicle.
  • Enforce a curfew. Limit driving at dawn, dusk and at night until your teen gathers more experience.
  • Gradually increase the amount of time and distance you allow your teen to drive.
  • Do not allow your teen to eat or drink while driving.
  • Do not allow your teen to use a cell phone while driving.
  • Enforce observance of speed limits and other rules of the road.
  • Do not allow your teen to drink and drive. Drinking under the age of 21 is illegal.
  • Ride with your teen occasionally to monitor his or her driving skills.

Parent/Teen Contracts

PennDOT cannot stress enough the importance of adult supervision of teen drivers – it is a critical component of keeping teen drivers safe. PennDOT charges parents/guardians with the responsibility of taking an active role in teaching their teen to drive, leading by example and setting limits. Parents/guardians have the ability to best gauge the teen driver’s knowledge, skills and maturity behind the wheel.

Many insurance companies offer sample Parent/Teen Driving contracts, which enable families to establish guidelines even before the teen starts driving. The contract sets rules and consequences for the teen driver as well as sets expectations of parents/guardians to help the teen driver learn safe and responsible driving. Check with your insurance company to see if they offer sample Parent/Teen Driving contracts or check out this one provided by AAA.

Pennsylvania's Zero Tolerance Law

Pennsylvania's Zero Tolerance Law carries serious consequences for those under 21 who are convicted of driving with any amount of alcohol in their blood. For example, those under 21 who are convicted of driving under the influence with a .02 blood alcohol content, or greater, face severe penalties, including a 12-to-18-month license suspension, 48 hours to six months in jail, and fines from $500 to $5,000.

A vehicle does not have to be involved in order for those under 21 to lose their driving privileges. It is against the law for an individual under the age of 21 to consume, possesses or transport alcohol, or lie about their age to obtain alcohol and carry a fake identification card. If convicted, the minimum penalties are a fine of up to $500, plus court costs; a 90-day license suspension for the first offense; a 1-year suspension for the second offense; and a 2-year suspension for the third and subsequent offenses.

The courts may require offenders to be evaluated to determine the extent of the involvement with alcohol and may also require successful completion of a program of alcohol education, intervention or counseling.


Additional Impacts on Your Driver's License
If you do not have a driver's license, you will be ineligible to apply for a learner's permit for the time period of the suspension. If you are under 16 years of age, your suspension will not begin until your 16th birthday, provided you acknowledge your suspension, and it is received any time prior to your 16th birthday. In addition to serving a suspension, a restoration fee must be paid before your driverʼs license will be returned or your application for a Non-Commercial Learner's Permit (DL-180) considered for processing.

Adults, even parents, who are convicted of knowingly and intentionally supplying minors with alcohol are subject to a fine of at least $1,000 for the first offense and $2,500 for each additional offense and face up to one year in jail. Adults are even liable for guests who drink in their homes.

Young Driver Tutor's Guide (How to Steer Them to Safe Driving)

PennDOT has developed a tutor´s guide for those teaching teenagers to drive. As a helpful supplement to the Pennsylvania Driver´s Manual, it guides tutors through lesson plans that help organize the time spent behind the wheel and assists in better preparing young drivers for the open road.

Some Basics of Safe Driving

  • Always remember to buckle up before taking the wheel and ensure that your passengers do, too.
  • Know and follow the rules of the road.
  • Stay within speed limits and drive at a speed that is safe for road conditions.
  • Look out for the actions of other drivers on the roadway and communicate your intentions to other drivers.
  • Follow other vehicles at a safe distance.
  • Never drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

For more information or if you have more questions, please go to www.dmv.state.pa.us.

Consider the Gift of Life

When you get your driver’s license, you can choose to give the gift of life and become an organ donor. Join the more than three million Pennsylvanians who have said they care by choosing this life-saving option. If you are under age 18, you must have the consent of
your parent or guardian to become an organ donor.