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Know the California rules for teen drivers

California has specific regulations for teens to follow when they have a learner’s permit or driver’s license. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. drivers ages 16 to 19 have the highest accident rate among all age groups. Special licensing programs help address these risks and create safe drivers. 

If your child is preparing to learn to drive, make sure he or she knows the state rules for teen motorists. 

Learner’s permit regulations 

California teens can apply for a learner’s permit at age 15 1/2 with parental permission. They must also pass a knowledge test and complete or enroll in a driver education program. Teens who do not take driver’s ed must wait until age 17 1/2 to get a permit. 

Once the valid learner’s permit is in hand, a teen can only drive with an adult older than age 25. The law prohibits driving alone or with other teens. 

Teen driver’s license regulations 

To get a driver’s license, a teen in California must: 

  • Reach age 16 
  • Hold a learner’s permit for at least six months 
  • Complete a driver’s education program 
  • Practice driving under supervision for at least 40 hours during the day at 10 hours at night 
  • Pass the road test 
  • Pass the knowledge test 

Teens who meet these requirements will receive a provisional driver’s license. Although your child can drive alone with a provisional license, these additional restrictions apply for the first 12 months: 

  • No passengers younger than 20 unless also transporting a licensed driver 25 or older 
  • No driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., except with verified employment necessity, medical necessity or educational necessity 
  • No solo driving if a traffic violation or collision occurs 

The teen can graduate from a provisional license to a full license at age 18. In the meantime, parents can enforce these rules at home to reduce the risk of a serious auto accident.