New Teen Driver Licensing Laws

Dec. 27, 2011: New Teen Driver Laws in Effect for Pennsylvania

There are new laws in effect for teen drivers to try to lower the high numbers of accidents that occur each year involving inexperienced drivers.

The new laws include the following:

  • Texting while driving will become illegal for all drivers and will be a primary offense 120 days after the Governor signs the bill. Once it becomes law, a police officer will be able to pull you over if he or she suspects you are texting while driving, even if you are not committing another traffic violation.
  • 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.
  • You must wear a seat belt, and all passengers must have the appropriate safety restraints -- seat belts, booster seats, or car seats. Failing to do so is a primary offense. A police officer can pull you over and fine you $75, even if you haven't committed another traffic violation.
  • Teens with learners' permits must log 65 hours of driving to get a junior license, including 10 hours of night driving and 5 hours of driving in bad weather.

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.

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 11 PM and 5 AM is allowed unless a parent, guardian, or spouse over 17 years of age accompanies you in the vehicle. You may drive alone from 11 PM to 5 AM 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.

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.

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