Texas Department of Public Safety

Map of USA with Texas highlighted in light blueIn the last decade, Texas has changed its driver’s license program for new drivers under 18 years old. This guide may prove useful for understanding how to acquire a driver’s license under the new system.

The biggest difference between the new and old systems occurred in 2002, when the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles adopted the Texas Graduated Driver License (GDL) Program. Many states have adopted systems of this type since that time because it has been shown to be dramatically effective in reducing the number of fatal car crashes that are caused by teen drivers.

Essentially, the new system extends the period of time it takes teen drivers to receive full driving privileges, while requiring more extensive training behind the wheel. Now, teens are given instruction permits to begin training. Then six months later, they may be issued a provisional license. This license allows teens to drive unsupervised; however, it places certain restrictions on driving for the first six months that the license is held.

If six months after having been issued the provisional license, the new driver has not been convicted of any moving violations, the provisional license may be converted to a full, unrestricted license.

The new system begins at 15, when new drivers first become eligible to receive an instruction permit. The purpose of the permit is driver training. It is not issued with a photograph, and its only purpose is to certify that a teen driver can drive under the supervision of a licensed individual who is at least 21 years old. The supervisor must be sitting in the passenger seat in the front of the vehicle and must be fully conscious in order to grant the student driver the ability to drive. Intoxicated individuals or individuals who are sleeping do not count as a supervisor, and authorities may ticket accordingly.

In order to receive the permit at 15, teens must have enrolled in a driver’s education course. They must also have proof of school enrollment and have passed the knowledge test. This test covers the¬†Texas Driver’s Manual. If enrollment is terminated at any time during driver training, the instruction permit, as well as any other form of provisional licensure, may be suspended until education resumes. After six months of owning an instruction permit and after turning 16, drivers become eligible for a driver’s license. Between receiving the instruction permit and the provisional license, they must also complete a driver’s education course and pass a road test. Some driver’s education courses will provide a road test for their students; others will not. In this last case, prospective drivers will take the driving skills test at the Department of Public Safety. New drivers are required to pay $5 for the license, and the license is set to expire on the driver’s next birthday.

Provisional licenses restrict the number of passengers the driver can transport at any given time to one person. Also, drivers may not be on the road between 12 p.m. and 5 a.m. These restrictions are raised after six months from the date of issuance. Until the driver’s 18th birthday, the provisional license must be renewed on a yearly basis for $5 annually. Education must be continued or fulfilled during this time period for the driver to retain driving privileges.

Find the local listings for the Texas Department of Public Safety Offices, for questions, advice, or appointments: https://www.dps.texas.gov/rolodex/search.asp