What is a Provisional License?

By Leslie Bloom - Updated March 09, 2018
Teenage boys and girls inside an old campervan, roadtrip

When teenagers are licensed to drive, they aren’t given the same freedoms as adult drivers. Although they are mostly allowed to drive on their own, they still must abide by a list of restrictions mandated in their state. Provisional driver’s licenses have a number of restrictions on them that regular driver’s licenses do not. This allows a young driver to gain experience behind the wheel without supervision, as long as they follow the restrictions. Provisional driver’s licenses are issued to teenage drivers who are 16 to 18 years old. Restrictions of a provisional driver’s license vary by state, with some subtle differences. They typically limit the times the driver can be on the road, who is in the car with the driver and cell phone use.

Tip

Provisional driver’s licenses are issued to drivers between 16 and 18 years old. Provisional driver’s licenses have a number of restrictions on them that regular driver’s licenses do not.

California Provisional Driver’s License

California issues provisional driver’s licenses to those who are at least 16 years old and who have held a state instruction permit for at least six months. Teens must complete six hours of professional driver training and driver education. They need 50 hours of driving practice with an adult 25 years or older, 10 of which must be done at night. California also requires proof of car insurance before taking the driving test.

For the first year of a provisional driver’s license, drivers must have a licensed passenger at least 25 years old in the between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. or if they are transporting passengers under 20 years old. Exceptions to these restrictions include medical necessity, employment necessity and school-authorized activities. Exceptions require a signed note explaining the necessity and the date the necessity ends. The provisional restrictions on the California driver’s license automatically end when the driver turns 18.

Oregon Provisional Driver’s License

Oregon also issues provisional driver’s licenses to those 16 years old who have held a state instruction permit for at least six months and received driver training. Teens must complete 100 hours of supervised driving experience or at least 50 hours of approved driver’s education. In Oregon, teens with a provisional driver’s license can’t use a cell phone to talk or text while driving. They also can’t use hands-free accessories for their phones. They are not permitted to drive between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m., with a few exceptions. For the first six months of their license, teens can’t drive with a passenger under the age of 20 unless it is a member of their immediate family. For the second six months of their provisional driver’s license, drivers can’t drive with more than three passengers under age 20 who are not members of their immediate family. These restrictions are lifted once the driver turns 18 or has their provisional driver’s license for a year, whichever happens first.

Maryland Provisional Driver’s License

Maryland’s provisional driver’s license is available to teens who are at least 16 1/2 years old. To obtain a license, they must complete driver’s education and supervised driving practice. They must also have no convictions or probations for a set time. In Maryland, teens with a provisional driver’s license cannot drive between midnight and 5:00 a.m. with exceptions. For the first 151 days, they cannot drive with passengers under age 18 who are not immediate family members without a qualified supervising driver. Drivers can’t use a cell phone or hands-free device, and are required to wear seatbelt. Provisional drivers must have a clean driving record for 18 months before the restrictions will be lifted.

Texas Provisional Driver’s License

A Texas provisional driver’s license is available to those at least 16 years old who’ve held a valid learner license for at least six months. They must complete driver’s education and the Impact Texas Drivers (ITD) requirement, which educates drivers on the dangers of distracted driving. In Texas, drivers with a provisional license can’t have more than one passenger under age 21 who is not related. They cannot drive between midnight and 5:00 a.m., unless a specified necessity or emergency. Provisional drivers cannot use a cell phone or hands-free device unless there is an emergency. These restrictions are lifted on the driver’s 18th birthday.

About the Author

Leslie Bloom earned a J.D. from U.C. Davis’ King Hall, with a focus on public interest law. She is a licensed attorney who has done advocacy work for children and women. She holds a B.S. in print journalism, and has more than 20 years of experience writing for a variety of print and online publications, including the Journal of Juvenile Law and Policy.

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