Thank you to the State Bar of California hich produced the “Kids and the Law” of which this is an extract. For the entire booklet go to: Children’s law

Many youngsters are eager to know when they can get a driver’s license. In California, they must be at least 16 years old to be eligible for a provisional driver’s license. (VC § 12814.6) And there are special restrictions and requirements for drivers under 18. But even before a teenager can get a provisional license, he or she must obtain an instruction permit (also called a learner’s permit) from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). (VC § 12509) To get such a permit, the teenager must:

●Be at least 15-1/2 years old but not yet 18.

●Submit an application form and a form showing completion of driver education and enrollment in or completion of driver training or enrollment in an integrated driver education/driver training program. The application form must be signed by the teen’s parents or guardians.

●Give a thumbprint.

●Pass a vision exam.

●Provide his or her Social Security number.

●Verify birth date and legal presence.

●Have his or her picture taken.

●Pay an application fee.

●Pass a written examination on traffic laws and signs.


Once all of these steps have been completed, the DMV will issue your child a learner’s permit. If the minor is over 17-1/2 years of age, he or she can obtain such a permit without the education or training requirements. It is illegal for a permit driver to drive alone. A parent, guardian, spouse or adult (age 25 or older) with a valid license must be in the car at all times and be able to take control of the vehicle if necessary.

 To get a provisional license, your child must:

 ●Be at least 16 years old.

●Finish both driver education and six hours of professional driver training and receive the proper certification. (DMV form DL 388 or OL 237, 238) Or, complete an integrated driver education/training program of 30 hours of instruction and six hours behind the wheel.

●Have a learner’s permit for at least six months.

●Provide a parent’s signature (or other acceptable signature) on his or her learner’s permit stating that all of the driving practices outlined in the Parent-Teen Training Guide have been completed. You can get this booklet at local DMV field offices or by visiting www.dmv.ca.gov(go to More DMV Publications) or by calling 1-800-777-0133(talk to an agent).

●Complete 50 hours of supervised driving with an adult (age 25 or older) who has a valid Californiariver’s license. Ten of the 50 hours must be done at night. The adult must certify the 50 hours of driving practice.

●Pass the behind-the-wheel driving test and a written exam. (The teenager must bring proof of insurance for the car in which the driving test is taken.)

Once your child has a provisional license, he or she can drive alone. However, the law does impose certain restrictions on drivers under the age of 18:

●For the first 12 months, the minor may not drive with anyone under the age of 20 in the car and may not drive between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., unless accompanied by a driver who is age 25 or older. In certain circumstances (the minor’s sibling, for example, has no other transportation to and from school), an exception may be made if the minor meets certain criteria. 

●Teenagers under 18 may not be employed as drivers. (VC § 12515) When a minor reaches age 18, the provisional part of the license ends. The license is still valid as a driver’s license until the next period for renewal, which would be the driver’s fifth birthday after initially applying for the provisional license.

Minors over the age of 14 can get a junior permit under certain circumstances, such as when there is inadequate school transportation or transportation due to an illness in the family. Or, such a permit might be allowed if the minor needs it for transportation to and from a job and the minor’s income is essential to the support of his or her family. (VC § 12513) In addition, a student driver’s license may be obtained by a student who is over 15 years old and is taking driver training in a public, parochial or private secondary school with the consent of the school principal and parents. (VC § 12650)

 Liability and auto insurance:

 For parents, children and driving means dealing with additional car insurance. Many parents simply add their child to their own policy, but this can be expensive. In California, minors who get their own policies are required to have the following minimum auto insurance coverage: (VC § 16430)

●$15,000 for the injury or death of one person per accident.

●$30,000 for the injury or death of two or more people per accident (still subject to the $15,000 maximum per person).

●$5,000 for property damage per accident.

 Note:In signing the form for their teenager’s provisional driver’s license, parents (or the sole parent or legal guardian) agree to accept financial responsibility for their child. However, in most cases, parents can’t be held liable for more than the amounts listed above. (VC § 17709)

Keep in mind that such insurance is intended to protect your child from losses as a result of an accident that he or she has caused. Since youthful drivers often get into accidents during their first few years of driving, it might be wise to obtain more than the minimum amount of auto insurance required on a car that will be driven by your child.

In addition, the liability limits do not apply when a parent has negligently entrusted their vehicle to the child. For example, the parents could be found liable if they knew (or should have known) of their child’s poor driving record, past accidents or drinking problem—and still permitted the child to drive his or her own car or a family car. In that case, the parents could be found liable for up to the full amount of damages if the child causes an accident. (VC § 17708)

All drivers must carry liability insurance to insure against injuries the driver causes to someone else or their property while operating any motor vehicle. Evidence of insurance or other mandated financial coverage must be carried in the vehicle at all times. (VC §§ 16020, 16028) A driver could be fined up to $200, plus penalty assessments, for a first offense of driving without proper insurance. (VC § 16029)

 Alcohol and cars:

 In California , it is unlawful for anyone—driver or passenger—to possess an open container of alcohol in an automobile. (VC §§ 23223, 23226) Possession of an open container of alcohol inside a car could lead to $1,000 in fines and six months in jail. A minor’s license can be suspended or delayed for a year in such circumstances.

Laws related to driving, alcohol and minors are particularly strict. It is illegal to carry a closed container of alcohol in a vehicle if anyone in the car—driver or passenger—is under 21 unless the person is accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or other responsible adult designated by the parent or guardian. If the car’s registered owner (whether he or she is driving or simply a passenger) illegally possesses an alcoholic beverage, the vehicle can be impounded for up to 30 days. An exception to this law would apply if the minor works for a licensee of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Actand is transporting alcohol during normal business hours. (VC § 23224) In addition, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drive a vehicle if he or she has a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01 percent or more. (VC § 23136) For adults who are 21 or older, the illegal BAC is higher, 0.08 percent or more. (VC § 23152(b))

 What will happen if my teenager is stopped by police for driving under the influence of alcohol?

 The police officer may administer a breath, blood or urine test to determine the driver’s blood-alcohol level. And the driver may not refuse to take this test without facing serious penalties. Those who do not submit to a BAC test could be fined or imprisoned and could have their driver’s license suspended or revoked for a period of one to three years. (VC §§ 13353.1, 23136, 23612)

And even if a breath, blood or urine test is not performed, a young person could still be convicted of driving under the influence (DUI). A chemical test is not required for a conviction if the judge or jury concludes that the person under the age of 21 did consume an alcoholic beverage and was driving a vehicle. (VC § 23140)

If your child is convicted of DUI and is under 18, his or her license will be revoked until he or she reaches the age of 18, or for one year, or for even longer if he or she has committed prior offenses. (VC § 13352.3)

In most cases, a minor convicted of DUI also would be required to participate in an alcohol education or community service program. If the individual is over 18, he or she would be required to pay the cost of attending this program; otherwise, the expense would be charged to the minor’s parents. (VC § 23520) If your child fails to complete a court-ordered alcohol education or community service program, a court might revoke or suspend his or her driver’s license. And if the minor does not yet have a license, he or she would be delayed in receiving one. These sanctions would remain in effect until the minor completes the court-ordered program or reaches age 21. (VC § 23502)

Finally, anyone who has a driver’s license suspended or revoked may also have his or her car insurance canceled. And a DUI conviction disqualifies an individual from receiving a “Good Driver Discount” insurance policy for the next 10 years. (IC § 1861.025)

 This information is provided for educational purposes only. For more information about divorce and family law in Los Angeles  please visit www.la-familylaw.com