Nobody is born knowing how to maneuver a vehicle around a city. And, although you can study the rules of the road in your state, you actually need to get behind the wheel to hone your driving skills. That's where a driver's permit comes in. A new driver can obtain a permit that makes it legal to practice driving without a license.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
In most states, you can get a driver's permit by taking a driver education class and/or sitting for the written portion of the driving test.
What is a Driver's Permit?
A driver's permit is a restricted driver's license for new drivers who know the basic rules but need to practice actual driving. In some states, obtaining and driving with a permit is a prerequisite to getting a license. The procedure for getting a permit varies between the states and can be different for teenage applicants. Adult permit applicants may need to only take the written part of the driving test. In some states, adolescents must take and pass driver education classes before they can sit for the permit test.
Once you have a driver's permit, you can legally get behind the wheel – but with restrictions. In many states, a permitted driver can only drive with a licensed adult in the passenger seat. Some states impose other restrictions, as well. But, despite the restrictions, a permitted driver should be able to get the practice she needs to pass the driving portion of the driver's license test.
Can You Drive by Yourself if You Have a Permit?
In most states, you cannot drive by yourself if you have a permit. You can drive legally with a permit only if you are accompanied by a licensed adult driver at least 21 years old, who sits in the passenger seat beside you.
Driver's Permit Laws by State
Each state has its own laws setting out how and when a new driver can get a permit. No two states have the same requirements or procedures. Here are a few examples.
In Washington, you must be 15 years old to apply for a permit, but at that age, you must take a driver's education class before you take the written driver's license test. If you are 15 1/2 years old, you are not required to take a driver's ed class before sitting for the written test, but if you don't take a class, you can't get a license until the age of 18. You'll need proof of identity and you'll also need to pass a vision test and pay the fee. Once you have a permit, you can drive only with a licensed driver beside you who has at least five years of licensed driving experience. The permit is valid for one year.
In New York, you must be 16 years old to apply for a permit. You have to pass the multiple-choice written driver's license test and get at least 14 out of the 20 questions correct. Similar to Washington, you'll need to establish your identity, take a vision test and pay the fee. A New York permit is good for five years. You can drive only with a licensed driver 21 years or older. Permit-holders cannot drive on any street within a park in New York City, on any bridge or tunnel under the jurisdiction of the Tri-borough Bridge and Tunnel Authority or on certain parkways in Westchester County.