How to Get Your Driver's License in the USA

Three Methods:Getting Your PermitGetting Your Driver's LicenseDealing With the Results of Your Test

To many people, getting a driver's license is a rite of passage, but there's a lot of preparation involved. Acquiring a permit, taking a written exam, practicing on the road, and being tested at the DMV may seem overwhelming, but fear not. You can do it! All it takes is learning some basic information, having common sense, and spending quality time behind the wheel.

Method 1
Getting Your Permit

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    Read the driver manual handbook. It's not very long and it's packed with useful information that will not only help you pass, but will also make you a safer driver. Yes, it's dry as a bone and can be preachy, but if you devote an hour to go through it and highlight all the important parts—especially speed limits, following distances, and right-of-way rules—you'll pass your test with flying colors.
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    Take the written test. Before a state will let you slip behind the wheel, they want to know you're not going to be a menace to society. If you read the manual, you'll do fine. If you fail the test, there is usually a waiting period before you can retake the test. Use that time to dig into that manual and commit to learning what you missed on the exam.
    • Check your state's DMV website—they often have sample written tests so that you can practice before you set foot inside the DMV.
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    Get your permit. Most states require you to have a permit before you practice driving. Getting a permit takes some planning. The requirements vary, and your state's DMV website will spell them out, but there are some general qualifications to know:
    • Be sure you reached the minimum age. Depending on what state you live in, you must be 14, 15 or 16 to drive and to get your license, but law enforcement recommends drivers be at least 16.
    • Provide your Social Security number. Some states require your actual SS card.
    • Proof of identity. This can come from a state-issued birth certificate, state-issued ID card, adoption papers, marriage certificate, or other official documentation.
    • Proof of citizenship or lawful residence—which can include an official birth certificate, passport, tribal ID card, or DHS documents.
    • Proof of residential address—this includes any of the above documents, or may simply be the statement or authorization of somebody who lives with you.
    • Some states require that you prove you are attending school, if you are under 18.
    • For applicants under the age of 18, the signature of the parent/legal guardian, along with the license number or SSN of the responsible person, must be listed on the application.
    • Pass a vision screening test. If you wear glasses, bring them. If you need them, or contact lenses, to drive, that will be noted on your licence.
    • Have your picture taken. Looking good!
    • Pay the testing and permit fees. Note that DMV's don't generally take credit cards, so bring your checkbook (or have your parents bring their checkbook)
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    Get behind the wheel. The best way to become a safe driver is to get plenty of practice. Keep in mind that as long as you have a permit, you must drive along with a licensed driver in the front seat of the car.[1]
    • Most states have a minimum number of months you must have a learner's permit, plus a number of hours you must be behind the wheel before you can actually get your first driver's license. This number may be lowered if you take an accredited driver's education course.
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    Choose your passenger. While you may not be able to pick who your passenger or instructor is (especially if you take a driver's education course), try to drive with someone you're comfortable with. If you drive with a friend in the car, make sure she has had her license for the legally required amount of time and is old enough, according to your state's laws.
    • Be patient with your friend/parent/driving instructor. Sure, their panicked squealing is annoying, but they'll get over it as you get more practice.
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    Pick a comfortable place to start driving. If you've never driven before, it will probably start awkwardly as you learn to coordinate your feet, hands, and eyes. Some prefer an empty parking lot for those first few few lurching starts and stops—especially if you are learning with a standard transmission.
    • Build confidence and driving skills before practicing in advanced driving situations, such as on highways or heavily trafficked city centers.

Method 2
Getting Your Driver's License

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    Read the manual—again! Sure, you read it before and passed the test, but the big test is coming up: your driving examination. Every rule or procedure you flub is a checkmark in the wrong column, so take the time to really study the material.
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    Schedule a driver's license test appointment, optional. In order to save time, call your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office and make an appointment.
    • Some DMV's do this, some don't. If they don't, ask when would be the best time to come for the practical test. They'll be happy to have you come when it's most convenient for them—which means a shorter waiting time for you.
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    Be prepared to test. It's vital that you feel confident in your driving abilities before testing, since you are liable for any property damage you may inflict during your test. You'll most likely be required to sign a statement assuming financial responsibility before you test.[2]Bring the necessary documentation with you or you may not be able to test. This documentation generally includes:
    • Your permit. They'll check your driving record and make sure you've not been suspended, which is what happens when you've had any traffic citations during your permit time.
    • Proof of driving time. In most states you are required to clock a certain number of driving hours, many of which must also have been driven at night.
    • Proof of identity, address, and legal residence. As listed above, bring the required documents to prove you are who you say you are.
    • Proof that you're of legal age. Legal age for a restricted license is usually 16 years old, though some states go as low as 14 or as high as 17. (A state-issued birth certificate will do nicely here.)
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    Fill out an application. You must have a parent or guardian sign this, though this requirement may be waived if you are married or are an emancipated minor.
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    Pass a written test. This may or may not be required by your state and may be waived if you have a valid permit. You did read the manual again, right?
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    Pass a vision examination. It will be just like the last one. Unless your vision changed drastically since you got your permit, you can expect the same results.
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    Take the driving test. This is it—make or break time! You've studied the books, practiced many hours, and are generally well-prepared, so don't be nervous. Be confident, be safe, and treat your tester with respect.
    • To take the driving test, you'll need to bring your own vehicle. It must be in safe operating condition, and you must show proof of insurance in order to test.
    • Bring a licensed driver to the DMV with you, in case you do not pass.

Method 3
Dealing With the Results of Your Test

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    If you passed, surrender your learner's permit. It served you well, but it's not needed now. They will issue you your first official driver's license. Congratulations! All your work paid off and you're now a licensed driver. You earned it with all your training and studying. But the process isn't quite over yet.
    • For persons under the age of 21, a distinctive “Under 21” license will be issued. The “Under 21” operator’s license is generally valid for ninety days beyond the 21st birthday.
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    Know your state's point system. As a licensed driver, you'll be subject to your state's point system. A driver under the age of 18 is generally held to a higher standard, and if you get any points against you, you could have your driving privilege suspended, so drive safely.
    • All drivers under the age of 21 are subject to “Zero Alcohol Tolerance.” Yep, even one beer will wreak havoc on your driving record. Obligatory preachy part: Don't drink and drive, and avoid this issue altogether.
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    If you failed, determine why you didn't pass. It may have been a single incident (what do you mean you can't drive 60 in a school zone?) or it might have been a series of small mistakes, like driving over the curbs, doing a rolling stop at stop signs, knocking over all the cones during the parallel parking maneuver, or generally driving poorly. You should figure out what you need to work on before retesting.
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    Reread the manual and practice more. Yes, again. No, it's still not exciting. But you must know the rules that they expect you to follow during the test, or you will not pass next time, either. You should also continue to practice driving some more. If there was a specific problem during the driver's test, be sure to really focus on it.
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    Retake the test. Practice during the required waiting period, then go back and do it again. Only this time, you're ready!


  • When you take the driving test for your license, don't be nervous. Be confident!
  • Keep your eyes on the road.
  • You can take classes from a commercial driving school which usually gets you a discount on your insurance and you have a greater chance of passing the test.
  • The car you drive for your test and the car you normally drive may be different in some aspects. Take note of how they are different, and then remind yourself of them every time you practice driving in your own car.
  • Don't let the driving teacher know you're scared. Try to hide it.


  • If you get busted driving a vehicle without an adult or guardian with you, the police are most likely to confiscate your license.
  • While driving with a permit, do NOT drive without a licensed driver. They are usually required to sit up front next to you.[3]
  • Make sure you are ready to take your license test before getting behind the wheel, as you will still be liable for any property damage you inflict, and other legal consequences if you have an accident during your test.[4]

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Categories: Legal Documents for Driving