teen learning how to drive with parenttexas state driving learner permit

How to Get a Learner’s Permit to Drive in Texas

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By Johnny Bevers

Like many other states, Texas has a graduated license program that is designed to reduce the high number of accidents among teen drivers.  This means that there are several steps that brand new drivers need to take before getting a full license for the first time.  This process can be complicated and lengthy, but it was adapted to ensure that all new drivers would be fully prepared to operate a motor vehicle in a variety of conditions.  Read on for a step-by-step guide to get a learner’s permit to drive in Texas.

1. Complete a Classroom Driver’s Education Program

Texas residents are able to apply for a learner’s permit at the age of 15; however, first, they must complete 32 hours of classroom instruction to prepare for the written exam, as well as a designated number of instruction hours behind the wheel.  These classroom hours can be completed in a driver’s ed class at school, through a commercial driving school, or with a parent through an online instruction course with parents documenting the number of hours of practical driver-instruction training.  For parents who would like to teach their children driver’s ed at home, a $20 registration fee is required, along with an application form that’s available at the DMV. Approved course materials must be used for the training to be valid.  The parent doing the teaching must have held a valid driver’s license for at least three years with no revocations, suspensions, or forfeitures during the last three years, and with less than six points on his or her license.  In addition, the parent must not have ever had a conviction for driving under the influence or criminally negligent homicide.  Parents typically spend more time with their children behind the wheel than drivers ed trainers because they see their child every day and have a vested interest in their ability to drive.  If parents can prevent their children from accidents, their insurance deductibles will remain fairly low.  When children are involved in an automotive accident, their insurance premiums can sky rocket, making insurance unaffordable for many families.  Texas DPS educators prefer a parent taught driver program because they know that parents will take the time required by their teens to become good, responsible drivers.

2. Apply in Person for Your Learner’s Permit

When you’ve completed the required hours, the next step is to go to your local department of motor vehicles (DMV) and apply for your permit.  You’ll need to be prepared with several items, including proof of residency and identity (such as a passport), proof of Social Security number (either Social Security card or health insurance ID, and verification of enrollment in high school (or, if you’ve graduated already, your diploma or GED).  You’ll also need to present a form certifying that you’ve completed driver’s education, as well as pay the $16 fee.  When you arrive, you’ll fill out your application for driver’s license, which must be signed by a parent or guardian.  You can save time by filling out this form ahead of time, as well as by making an appointment at the DMV online rather than showing up without one.  If you didn’t already take the written driving exam as part of your driver’s ed course, you can take it during your appointment at the DMV.  The best study guide for the written exam is the Texas Driver Handbook.  You can also prepare by taking free practice tests online to gauge your grasp of the material and your readiness to take the test.

3. Practice Driving

Your learner’s permit allows you to drive in the state of Texas, provided you are accompanied at all times by a licensed driver who is at least 21 years of age.  Cell phone use in the vehicle is prohibited for drivers with a learner’s permit.  After six months of driving with your permit, during which you must log at least 10 hours of driving during the day and 10 hours driving at night, you are eligible to apply for an intermediate license.  This license will allow you to drive by yourself without supervision and is the ultimate goal of most teenage drivers.

4. Apply for an Intermediate License

After six months, provided you’ve completed the required hours of practice under your learner’s permit, you’re eligible to take the road test for your intermediate license.  The road test includes an evaluation of driving skills such as using signals and following signs and rules correctly, proper braking, and parallel parking.  Under the intermediate license, drivers are not allowed to drive between midnight and 5 a.m., and may not have more than one passenger who is younger than age 21 (except family members).  In addition, all wireless communication in the motor vehicle is prohibited for drivers with a provisional license.  After you hold an intermediate license for a full year or turn 18, you’re eligible for a full Texas driver’s license.

Bear in mind that when you have your learner’s permit in Texas, you’re still required to be covered by auto insurance.  If you are a minor, you may be covered under your parents’ policy, but have them confirm that this is the case before driving.  In order to graduate from a learner’s permit to an intermediate license, you must show proof of your own insurance policy, whether as a single driver or as an add-on to your family policy.  While drivers older than age 18 who are getting a license for the first time are not required by law to get a learner’s permit, it is illegal for them to practice driving without having a permit.  Brand-new drivers who are younger than age 24 are required to take a driver’s education class before getting a license.  This can be either a six-hour course designed for adults, which can be taken either online or in person, or a course offered by a driver training school.  As soon as a new adult driver is ready to take the written and road tests, they are eligible to apply for a full license provided they meet the residency and citizenship requirements.  Another important point to note is that in Texas, persons under the age of 18 who have been convicted of possession, purchase, or receipt of cigarettes or tobacco products must attend a tobacco awareness program approved by the Texas Department of State Health Services within 90 or risk having his or her driver’s license suspended.  While the process for obtaining a learner’s permit in Texas may seem complex, it’s important to remember that these rules are in place for your safety and the safety of others on the road.  By taking driver’s education seriously and taking all the necessary steps to move from your learner’s permit to full driving privileges, you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of safe and effective driving.

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