California Drivers Ed: How to Get Your Learners Permit and Drivers License

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The Golden State has always been heavy on rules and regulations. Even with something like learning to drive, it may seem confusing, even overwhelming. With all the forms, fees, and certificates it’s easy to miss what’s really important here:  learning the rules of the road to make you a smart driver and getting the behind-the-wheel training to make you a competent driver. If you’re just starting out, all you can think is “What do I do first?” Getting your license sure is a process but it doesn’t have to be a burden. Today, we’re going to break down the process to give you all the information you need in a way that’s understandable and easy to follow. That way you can concentrate on what matters most: learning to drive.

Now, to begin you should be at least 15 years old before you begin a California Drivers Ed course. Anyone under 17 ½ must complete a 30 hour Drivers Ed course . This is considered classroom learning, there’s no driving yet. This course teaches rules of the road to your teen, to give them the knowledge to stay safe behind the wheel. Drivers Ed used to be very common in high schools but has become less and less the case over the last couple of decades. An online course like this one is the only way to go these days. Upon completion of the 30 hour course, you’ll be given a certificate of completion by your online Drivers Ed school.

With that out of the way, you need complete your driver training school requirement. In California, teens must complete 6 hours of in-car training with a behind the wheel school. This is typically done in three 2-hour sessions. Here you’ll have the basics of driving instilled in your teen by a licensed professional. Once finished, you’ll receive a certificate of completion for Behind The Wheel Driver Training

Now that you’ve turned at least 15 ½, you can go get your permit but be sure to bring the following to DMV with you:

-Form DL-44, called a Driver License or Identification Card Application [ To obtain this form by mail, call DMV’s automated phone service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-777-0133. Get it before you go to DMV as both your parents need to sign it]

-Certificate of Completion from your Drivers Ed course

-Certificate of Completion from your Behind-The-Wheel Training.

-Social Security Number [e.g. your original signed Social Security card; It will be verified with the Social Security Administration’s system at the DMV for you.]

-Your original or a certified copy of your birth certificate

-Proof of identity and lawful U.S. presence (This can be an unexpired United States passport, Certificate of Citizenship/Naturalization)

While at the DMV, you’ll do the following:

-Take a vision test

-Take the written permit test [There are 46 questions on the test. A passing score is at least 38 correct answers. You have three chances to pass the test. If you fail, you must wait 7 days before taking it again.]

-Be photographed for your permit/license.

-Provide a thumbprint and signature sample for your permit/license

-Pay the applicable fee

Do all that correctly and you’ll get your Learners Permit.

Now what? PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!  To be eligible for a road test, you have to hold your permit for a minimum six months [you must be at least 16 for a road test]. In that time, you should continue practicing to drive with a licensed adult [parents of guardians]. You must complete 50 hours of in-car training and 10 of these hours have to be at night.

Once the practice driving requirements have been met, you can schedule a road test online here or by calling 1-800-777-0133 [8AM -5PM Monday-Friday]. Be sure to bring Proof of Financial Responsibility [ Proof of Insurance] with you to your road test. You’ll either have to be added to your parents’ auto insurance policy or get your own.

Then you just pass your road test and become a licensed driver!

To get started down the right path, I recommend DriversEd.com for its California Teen Drivers Ed course. The reason they’re the best in my opinion is not only do they have a fantastic online drivers ed program that’s easy to use on all sorts of devices but because they’ve actually have their own driving school with the largest number of instructors in the state. They cover all facets of Drivers Ed. Check them out!

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[Note: If you’re over 17 ½, you are not required to take Drivers Ed or Behind The Wheel training, just pass the permit exam, and hold your permit until you’re 18 for a road test. All other paperwork is still required and any other DMV procedures stated above will still apply]

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