Getting a driver’s license in California is a very exciting time. You can finally cruise up the coast on a sunny afternoon, hit your favorite fast food stop anytime you want, or go on a road trip with your friends. Or can you?

If you are under the age of 18 and getting your driver’s license in California, you actually hold a provisional license. Although a provisional license will grant you many of the freedoms you want, things like a road trip with friends will have to wait. In this article, we are going to break down what a provisional driver’s license is, the rules of driving with a provisional license, and the penalties you may receive if you break the rules when driving with a provisional license. 

How to Obtain a Provisional Driver’s License

If you are a minor in the state of California, the first thing you will need to do is obtain a California pink slip and learner’s permit. In order to get a driver’s permit you must meet the following requirements: 

  • Be at least 15 ½ years of age.
  • Complete the DL 44 or eDL 44 application.
  • Have parents or guardians sign your application.
  • Pass the written knowledge test.
  • If you are 15 ½ to 17 ½ you will also have to prove that you have completed a driver’s education program or are enrolled in an integrated driver’s training and education program. 

Provisional Drivers License Requirements

If you are a minor in the state of California looking to receive your provisional driver’s license, you must meet the following requirements to be eligible: 

  • You must be a minimum of 16 years old.
  • Have documentation that you have completed a driver’s education class and driver’s training class.
  • Must have had your driver’s permit for at least 6 months. This can be a California learner’s permit or a learner’s permit from another state. 
  • Completed 50 hours of supervised driving with a parent or guardian. 10 of these hours will need to take place at night time. Once these are complete, your parent or guardian will have to sign your learner’s permit certifying you have completed this step.
  • Pay the application fee.
  • Pass the written driving exam.
  • Complete the behind-the-wheel exam in the first three attempts. Note: If you do not pass within three attempts you will have to pay an additional fee to retest. 

Once you have completed all these steps you will officially receive your California provisional license.

Driving Rules With a Provisional License

As we mentioned in the beginning, a provisional license does come with some additional rules. These rules are meant to keep new drivers safe as they are the most susceptible to accidents. As long as you don’t have any accidents or violations (we’ll take a look at those later) the “provisions” on your provisional driver’s license only apply for the first 12 months. After that, you are a normal driver. Here are the rules for driving with a provisional license: 

  • You may not drive after 11:00 pm or before 5:00 am. 
  • You cannot transport anyone under the age of 20 without a licensed driver over the age of 25/licensed parent or guardian accompanying you.

Although these rules may seem like a bummer, they are proven to help keep new drivers safe. They only last a year, so you can take that road trip up the coast in no time.  

Exceptions to a Provisional Drivers License

A provisional driver’s license comes with rules, but alongside those rules are a few exceptions. There are four exceptions to these rules based on your health, schooling, family, and work. They are:

  • Employment: If it is necessary for you to break one of the rules for work (like driving early in the morning) you must have a signed note from your employer confirming employment.
  • School: If you’re driving for a school-related function or authorized activity you must have a signed note from the principal, dean, etc. 
  • Medical: If you have a medical reason (and cannot find other transportation) you must have a signed note from your doctor with your diagnosis and expected date of recovery.
  • Family: If there is a need for you to transport family members for any reason you must have a signed note from your parent or guardian stating the reason and how long you will need to transport them. Please note this is for immediate family only.

So if you have any of the reasons above, you will need a signed note but will have an exception to the provisional driver’s license rules. 

Penalties for Poor Driving While on a Provisional License

Always remember having a driver’s license is a privilege, not a right. There are consequences for breaking the rules. Below we will lay out some of the consequences of breaking the rules or having a poor driving record:

  • The DMV will suspend your driver’s license if you receive a ticket and do not appear in court. 
  • You will receive a warning if you have an at-fault collision or traffic violation within the first 12 months. 
  • A 30-day suspension will be implemented if you receive 2 at-fault collisions or traffic violations (or a combo). You will only be permitted to drive if you have a licensed parent/guardian in the vehicle or a licensed driver over the age of 25.
  • Six-month suspension and one year of probation if you receive three at-fault collisions or traffic violations (or a combo).
  • If you receive 4 at-fault collisions or traffic violations you will be suspended again.
  • Any individual provisional driver who received a DUI for alcohol or a controlled substance will have their license revoked for one year. If you are between the age of 13 and 21 without a driver’s license the DMV will deny your eligibility for a driver’s license. Anyone found in this situation may also be required to take a DUI program.