Driving with a Learner’s Permit

Driving with a learner’s permit is the only way teens should get behind the wheel to learn how to drive. Teens applying for driving with a learner's permit need to take a test on driving laws and policies, including traffic signs and signals. States set the minimum age at which teens can apply for a learner’s permit and a “holding period” (usually six months) from the permit issue date until teens can take the on-road test at the DMV.

Driving with a learner’s permit requires teens to log many, many hours of varied practice driving under adult supervision to develop critical driving skills and experience to prevent crashes. Some states also require that practice hours are completed at night and in poor weather. Practice supervisors need to have a driver’s license and be over the age of 21. CHOP researchers have developed the TeenDrivingPlan Practice Guide to help teens get the quality practice they need to become safe drivers.

Before beginning practice driving with a learner's permit, parents and teens should discuss the process. Parents need to emphasize that the on-road driving test is not a given and that maturity and skill must be demonstrated before taking it. Teens should take an active role in identifying GDL provisions and sharing this information with parents. If they drag their feet or show no interest in talking about learning to drive, they may not be ready to learn.

Once supervised driving with a learner's permit begins, continue to keep the lines of communication open. Learning-to-drive is not a one-size-fits-all process. Teenagers are unique, and vary in how much and what kinds of practice they need.

Parents may also want to consider working with a certified driver’s education instructor during the driving with a learner's permit stage to provide training for more challenging situations, including learning to drive in commercial areas and on highways. This professional can also provide an expert assessment of a teen’s readiness to take the on-road test  and identify areas of strength and weakness. There should be frequent, honest, and clear communication between the teen, the parent, and the instructor. Everyone should agree on expectations for the lessons, parent supervised practice, and how success will be evaluated.

While driving with a learner’s permit, it’s also good to know if teens can legally do so out of state. Visit DriveUSAonPermit to find out.