If you think getting a learner's permit is only for high school students in driver's ed classes, you may be in for a surprise. Everybody needs to practice navigating the roads before being turned loose on the freeways, or at least many states seem to think so. The mere fact that your 18th birthday is behind you might not exempt you from a permit requirement.
"Permitted" to Drive
A learner's permit is a ticket to drive, but not alone. Individuals who carry a permit can drive only if they follow certain restrictions that almost always include having a licensed driver in the car with them. And other restrictions may also apply.
In Connecticut, for example, a permit holder can drive only if the other person in the car is 20 years of age or older who has held a driver's license for at least four consecutive years with no suspensions. In Vermont, the adult must be 21 years old.
Not Only for the Young
Learner's permits are termed provisional or temporary licenses in some states. They are routinely issued to young drivers between ages 15 and 18. Most states do not require that driver's license applicants over the age of 18 first obtain permits. However, more states than you might think require all novice drivers to obtain a permit before getting a regular license.
In some states like Massachusetts, the term "permit" is used to refer to the knowledge test, so you can take a driving test immediately after getting the permit. The same is true in California. But in other states, you may need to hold the permit for some months too before being allowed to take a driving test.
For example, in Connecticut, you'll have to get an adult learner’s permit and use it to practice on-the-road driving for at least 90 days before taking the on-the-road skills test. The only exceptions are those in active duty military stationed out of state, teens who had a permit that expired on their 18th birthday, and anyone who held a driver's license in the past. In Michigan, you have to practice for only 30 days.
Virginia law mandates that any first-time driver over the age of 18 obtain a permit before sitting for a license. Novice Virginia drivers must hold the permit for 60 days before taking the driving test. Alternatively, instead of getting a permit, over-18-year-old drivers can take a state-approved driver's education program.
Moving Day Blues
If you are moving to a state that requires a new driver to obtain a permit before sitting for a driver road test, don't start moaning and groaning yet. If you already have a license from your old home state when you relocate, you won't have to first obtain a learner's permit. Instead, all you have to do is submit a application and surrender your prior license.Of course there are those pesky fingerprints, photos and fees, as well.
In some states, individuals trying to get their first driver's license must first obtain a permit. Some states require applicants to hold permits for a month or two before they are eligible to take a driving test. However, most states do not require a permit for those over 18.
- Connecticut DMV: Obtaining an Adult Learner’s Permit (for 18 years of age or older)
- Massachusetts Legal Services: Getting a Driver’s License in Massachusetts
- Virginia DMV: Learner's Permit Information
- California DMV: How to Get a Permit if You Are 18 or Older
- Michigan: SOS Practice Driving
- Washington Legislature: Summary State Table
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.