-A How To Manual-
It turns out that licensing teenagers is really complicated. Since there are consequences involved, Virginia makes large demands on teenagers before allowing them to be licensed. This is the price you have to pay for having the privilege to drive before reaching adulthood. Once a Virginian is 18 years of age, NONE OF THIS APPLIES. That’s right, it all goes right out the window when the government says you’re an adult.
Adults are only required to hold the Learner’s Permit for 60 days then return to the DMV for their final road test. I would tell you to wait until you’re a strapping young 18 year old to drive, but that would put us out of business. Seeing as how that would be terrible for us, everyone should obviously begin driving as a teenager. You’ll need to know the process though, so we have tried to make it as simple as possible.
We’ve outlined the steps below, with some useful hints that only apply to teens. Remember, all of these requirements are only important to the DMV while you are underage. As it stands, the frontal lobe is not fully developed until 25 years of age so most people on the road don’t actually have any understanding of long term consequences for their actions. So it’s probably fine. Just try not to kill all of us old people, thanks.
You’re going to need a real one, so go to the DMV.
All driver’s must start with a Learner’s Permit. There is no way to waive the Learner’s Permit requirement. Sometimes the DMV website is confusing and does sometimes lead people to think that they can get away with no Learner’s Permit by doing a Driver’s Education course. This is false.
In Virginia, the Learner’s Permit test has absolutely nothing to do with Driver’s Education. You would not believe the number of people who call us thinking their child has a permit, therefore they have completed some sort of Driver’s Education. The knowledge test is based solely on the DMV issued Driver’s Manual. Click on the link for the PDF version. There is no class to complete and having a Learner’s Permit doesn’t actually mean that you’ve done Driver’s Education. These aren’t the same things in the Commonwealth.
Everyone in Virginia, no matter their age or experience, has to start with a Learner’s Permit. If your Learner’s Permit expires, you have to start all over again. That’s important information for those teens that are here on visas for diplomatic or expatriate purposes. They have Learner’s Permit expiration dates based on their visas and need to be actively aware of that date so that the permit doesn’t expire.
Another thing Virginia doesn’t ever do is transfer a Learner’s Permit from any state or territory. Virginia forces everyone to do the knowledge test for a Virginia Learner’s Permit. This test can only be taken at the DMV, no driving school can give you a Learner’s Permit, sorry.
This has NOTHING to do with a Learner’s Permit!
Driver’s Education is required for all underage drivers. If you’re in planning district 8 (All of Northern Virginia), you’ll also be required to do the 90 minute Parent/Teen course as a part of Driver’s Education. It isn’t a la carte either, you have to do the 90 minute portion with whomever you’re doing the Driver’s Education part with, they are considered to be a part of the same course.
If your teen has already done Driver’s Education in public school along with the 90 minute portion, they were issued a DEC-1 card. It’s either a pink card or a green card. Its the only non-DMV issued form that is acceptable as proof of completion for Driver’s Education. No one is allowed to accept transcripts or school report cards. You have to have the DEC-1 card or a DMV issued document to say that you’ve completed Driver’s Education.
Driver’s Education is a 30 hour program, that can be taken online if your teen isn’t taking it at school. The final examination is proctored, so you’ll have to come to an office to take it. These are state regulations, we can’t do anything about it aside from watch your kid while they’re testing. The test is hard, lots of kids fail it.
Behind the Wheel
We don’t have any robot instructors, just people ones.
Contrary to popular belief, we are not teaching your kids to drive. Parents are required by the state and DMV to teach their own teens how to drive. You are required to have 45 hours of driving practice prior to being able to sign up a teenager for Behind the Wheel. That’s right; suck it up cupcake, no one is going to do this for you. If your kid is likely to kill someone, the state is going to make sure it’s you rather than some innocent citizen just going about their business.
Behind the wheel is actually an extended road test. That’s why we issue a temporary license at the end of it, assuming your teen passes. What’s actually happening during the seven Behind the Wheel sessions is that our drivers are testing whether or not your teen is capable of doing basic maneuvering and is paying attention to what they’re supposed to be doing. They aren’t learning to drive, as they should have already completed the learning process with their parent or guardian. Yes, we will judge you based on their abilities. Welcome to parenthood, you should be pretty used to it by now.
Our people instructors (Not killer robots) are highly experienced. If you want to know more about them and their qualifications, please visit our website and click on the blue carrot that says “Extra Information Regarding Our Instructors”.
The DMV does not allow parents or even siblings to ride along during Behind the Wheel. During Covid, the rules changed. There is no longer an observation period so it is only the instructor and the student in the car. If you’re overly protective or have some other reason you absolutely need to keep your child in sight at all times, you can drive along behind them in your own vehicle. You are not, under any circumstances, permitted to be inside the vehicle during instruction.
If you’d rather just do the road test at the DMV, you’ll have to wait until your 18 years old. The DMV will not test or license minors. Only a driving school licensed by the DMV can do that, occasionally public schools will offer the road test to their students but it usually isn’t free. There is a substantial monetary cost associated with obtaining the privilege to drive prior to adulthood. The option to wait and do it for free always exists.
Your license will never be as cool as his.
Once your teen has met all of the requirements, you still have to wait for that shiny bit of hard plastic that says you’re a licensed driver. The temporary license that was issued by the instructor is not actually valid until the teen has held the Learner’s Permit for 9 months and is 16 1/4 years old. If either of those has not come to pass, that temporary license means nothing, you’ll still have to drive with them. Similarly, if the temporary license expires, you’ll need to have it re-issued, which is why we don’t let students immediately sign up for Behind the Wheel when they’ve passed Driver’s Education. Oh, it can’t be issued again once you’ve turned 18 years old. Please remember that NONE OF THIS applies to adults and it all goes right out the window when 18 years of age is reached.
The DMV will send your license to your home. This is important, because it did not used to be the case. Virginia used to make you go through an entire court ceremony to get an underage license, but Covid made them finally change the rules. You no longer have to waste a day listening to a judge lecture you, thanks Corona. However, because it’s being sent to your home, you need to let the DMV know if you change address. Notifying the post office is NOT ENOUGH. Remember, the DMV is a government agency, as is the Post Office; they do not speak to each other at all and they’re all poorly trained. If you move and don’t notify DMV, your license will be lost in the mail forever. Good Luck with that.