Pennsylvania Driver Licensing Law & Teen Driver Law

Obtaining a Pennsylvania Junior Learner's Permit

You must be at least 16 years old to apply for a learner's permit. Also, before applying, you must have a medical professional conduct a physical examination and complete the "Medical Qualification Certificate" section of Form DL-180 to verify that you're medically capable of operating a vehicle.

Then you can visit a licensing center with the following items:

  • Completed Non-Commercial Learner's Permit Application (Form DL-180)
  • Completed Parent or Guardian Consent Form (DL-180TD) if you're under 18
  • Proof of your date of birth and identification (acceptable forms of identification can be found on the reverse side of Form DL-180)
  • Your Social Security card
  • A check or money order, payable to PennDOT, in the appropriate amount

An eye screening and knowledge test are given, and once they're passed, a learner's permit is issued. The permit is valid for one year. When gaining driving experience you must be accompanied by an adult 21 years or older.

Permit holders must be accompanied by a licensed driver at least 21-years-old or a parent, guardian, or spouse at least 18-years-old and licensed. Young drivers may only drive between 11PM and 5AM if for employment or volunteer service. If a permit holder accumulates six or more points, driving privileges will be revoked for 90 days.

Obtaining a Junior Driver's License

For those under age 18, a six-month waiting period and at least 65 hours behind the wheel with a learner's permit is required prior to taking the skills test for a junior license. The 65 hours must include 10 hours of driving at night and 5 hours of bad-weather driving. Those 18 or older can take the test and receive a license at any time.

For drivers 18 and under who plan to obtain their graduated license before turning 18, a PennDOT approved driver's education course must be completed. If not, a junior license automatically becomes a graduated license upon turning 18.

The following restrictions must be followed by drivers using a junior license:

  • No driving between the hours of 11PM and 5AM is allowed unless a parent, guardian, or spouse over 17 years of age accompanies you in the vehicle. You may drive alone from 11PM to 5AM if you're involved with a public service, volunteer fire company, or employed during those hours. As proof, you must carry a notarized affidavit from your employer, supervisor, or fire chief confirming your schedule.
  • If an accident occurs for which you are partially or fully responsible, or if you commit certain moving violations, your license may be suspended until you are 18 years old or for a period of time not exceeding 90 days.
  • Drivers under 18 will be suspended if they accumulate six or more points or are convicted of driving 26 mph or more over the posted speed limit. The first suspension will be for a period of 90 days. Any subsequent occurrences will result in 120 days of suspension.
  • Teens with a junior license without a parent in the vehicle cannot have more than one friend or similar person under age 18 (who is not a member of the household) as a passenger. If you are not in an accident for six months, you will be allowed to carry up to three passengers with the same criteria.

Obtaining a Graduated Driver's License

It's possible to obtain a regular license one year after receiving your junior license and still be under 18. To do so, you must have passed a PennDOT approved driver training program, have no violations or accidents on your record, and have the consent of your parents, guardian, or spouse. If you meet these criteria, you can graduate to a full license as young as 17 and a half.

To apply for your regular license before turning 18 you must fill out the application form (DL-59) and mail it to PennDOT. If your application is approved, you will receive an update card to carry with your Junior Driver's License. If you do not meet the requirements to graduate to a regular license before turning 18, you must wait to have the junior license restrictions lifted automatically when you do turn 18.

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. 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.

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