All over the United States, teenagers chomp at the bit, waiting for that magical day when they’re old enough to drive a motor vehicle. Texas law includes provisions that make the wait shorter for some kids than others. Under certain circumstances, minors can qualify for hardship licenses. The state recognizes other types of provisional licenses as well – and these are also sometimes tagged as hardship licenses.
Age and Driver Training Requirements
Texas teen drivers who are at least age 15 1/2 may be eligible for a minor restricted driver license (MRDL), also known as a hardship license. At one point in the state’s history, teens only needed to reach age 15, but the Texas legislature added an additional 180 days to this requirement in 2011. The teenager must take a driver education course approved by the state and pass a driving test, just as he would if he waited until the traditional time of his 16th birthday.
Teenagers can’t take the mandatory driver's training course until they turn 15. Before the September 2011 changes to the legislation, they could take it at age 14. The graduated driver license requirements do not apply to holders of an MRDL license.
Unusual Economic Hardship Licensing Requirement
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) won’t issue a hardship license unless the driver or his family can show that they will experience an “unusual” and “economic” hardship if the teen can’t drive. For example, his family might be in dire need of additional income, which he can’t provide unless he can drive himself to work. He might qualify if the applicant's family member is seriously ill and he needs to drive to help provide care, or if a death-related emergency in the family exists that requires him to drive.
Enrollment in a vocational education program qualifies him if he can’t attend classes unless he can drive. Being able to attend regular extracurricular high school activities is not adequate reason for a hardship license. Under some emergency situations, the state can waive the training course requirement, but only temporarily. It can issue a temporary license for 60 days, which the teen can renew every 60 days as long as the emergency exists.
Moving Violations by Hardship License Holders
Texas hardship licenses offer no wiggle room for moving violations. If your teenager receives such a license then gets a ticket, the law requires that his license be revoked. This is also a change from the way things were before 2011. At that time, the court had the discretion to decide whether to revoke the license, but now it’s mandatory.
Occupational Licenses in the State of Texas
The other type of hardship license available from the Texas DPS applies to already-licensed drivers who have their Texas driver's licenses revoked or suspended for some reason, excluding issues of unpaid child support or a physical inability to drive. This occupational license allows the driver to operate a vehicle to get to his place of employment, perform household duties or go to school.
To obtain this type of license, you must establish that you can’t use public transportation or that public transportation isn’t available where you live. These licenses can help drivers who lost their driving privileges due to accumulating too many points from moving violations or because they have convictions for driving under the influence, or DUIs.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.