The process of getting your driver's license will depend on several factors, including your age and how long you've lived in Pennsylvania.
The GDL Program
Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs are designed to help young novice or new drivers adjust to the responsibility of obtaining full driving privileges. Studies have shown that GDL programs help reduce collisions among novice drivers. In Pennsylvania, there are three stages to the GDL program.
You need a learner’s permit to operate a vehicle in Pennsylvania. To qualify for a learner’s permit, you must be at least 16 years old and apply for a permit at the Driver License Center. You must bring the following completed forms, documentation, and payment with you:
- A completed Non-Commercial Learner’s Permit Application (DL-180). Be sure to have your health care provider complete the back of the Non-Commercial Learner’s Permit Application (DL-180). The form must be completed no earlier than six (6) months prior to your 16th birthday. All information must be completed. If the Driver License Examiner can't determine whether the information on the Non-Commercial Learner’s Permit Application (DL-180) meets medical standards, your learner’s permit may be delayed. You may be required to undergo additional medical examinations. If you have a condition that seriously impairs your ability to drive, you may be required to get a dual control learner’s permit and learn to drive with a certified instructor.
- If you're under age 18, your parent, guardian, person in loco parentis, or spouse who's 18 years of age or older must complete the Parent or Guardian Consent Form (DL-180TD). If the parent, guardian, person in loco parentis, or spouse who's 18 years of age or older can't accompany the applicant, the DL-180TD must be signed by the parent, guardian, person in loco parentis, or spouse who's 18 years of age or older in the presence of a notary. Proper identification is required and if last names are different, verification of relationship is needed.
- Proof of date of birth and identification. These documents must be originals (photocopies will not be accepted). Forms of identification that may be used to prove your identity are on the back of the Non-Commercial Learner’s Permit Application (DL-180) along with fees.
- Your Social Security card (card must be signed).
If you're over age 19, you must also present 2 proofs of residency.
At the Driver License Center, your vision will be tested and you must pass the knowledge test.
After meeting these requirements, you'll be issued a learner’s permit, which is valid for one year. You may begin to practice driving after you receive your learner’s permit.
A licensed driver who's at least age 21 or a parent, guardian, person in loco parentis, or spouse who's 18 years of age or older and holds a driver’s license must ride with you in the front seat of your vehicle at all times. In addition, drivers under age 18 can't have more passengers in the vehicle than the number of seat belts.
The next stage is the junior driver's license. If you're under age 18, the next step in the licensing process is the junior driver’s license. To qualify for your junior driver’s license, you must hold your learner's permit for at least six months, complete at least 65 hours of behind-the-wheel skill-building, including at least 10 hours of nighttime driving, and five hours of driving in poor weather conditions. You'll also need to pass the road test. If your learner’s permit expires or you do not pass your Road Test after three tires, you may obtain a Non-Commercial Learner’s Permit Application to extend your learner’s permit.
Like the learner’s permit, there are some limitations to the junior driver’s license.
- You may not drive between the hours of 11 pm and 5 am, unless your parent, guardian, person in loco parentis, or spouse who's age 18 or older is with you. However, you may drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., if you're involved in public or charitable service, a member of a volunteer fire company or employed during those hours. In these cases, you must carry a notarized affidavit or certificate of authorization from your employer, supervisor or fire chief indicating your probable schedule of activities. The notarized affidavit should be kept with your driver’s license.
- You may not carry more passengers than seat belts available in the vehicle you're driving.
- You may not carry more than one (1) passenger under the age of 18 who isn't an immediate family member unless a parent, guardian, person in loco parentis, or spouse who's 18 years of age or older is in the vehicle with you. After the first six (6) months of driving on a junior license, the limit is increased to no more than three (3) passengers under the age of 18 who are not immediate family members unless a parent, guardian, person in loco parentis, or spouse who's 18 years of age or older is in the vehicle with you. The increased limit does not apply to any junior driver who has ever been involved in a crash in which you were partially or fully responsible or who's convicted of any driving violation.
- You'll receive a mandatory 90-day suspension if you accumulate six or more points or are convicted of driving 26 mph or more over the posted speed limit.
The third stage is the unrestricted driver's license. You can get your full or unrestricted driver's license after you've had your junior license for one year, as long as you meet the following conditions:
- Have passed a driver training course approved by the PA Department of Education. Safe2Drive’s online Pennsylvania Driver Education course satisfies the 30-hour classroom requirement for driver education. You'll also be required to complete 6 hours of behind-the-wheel training with a certified driving school.
- Have not been involved in a crash for which you are partially or fully responsible for one (1) year.
- Have not been convicted of any violation of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code for one (1) year.
- Have the consent of your parent, guardian, person in loco parentis, or spouse who's at least age 18
If you meet these requirements, you can apply for a regular driver’s license by submitting an Application for Change from a Junior Driver’s License to a Regular Non-Commercial Driver’s License (DL-59). Your junior driver’s license will automatically become a regular driver’s license when you turn age 18.
There are several exams you may be required to complete in order to get your driver's license.
- The driving test. You'll be tested on your ability to control the vehicle, as well as your parallel parking skills. Vehicles with automatic parking guide systems can be used for the driving skills test, but you'll have to turn those features off during it. If you pass the road test, you'll be issued your licensed. If you fail the test and you're under age 18, you'll have to wait 7 days before you can take it again. If you fail it three times, you'll have to reapply to extend your learner's permit.
- The knowledge test(s). The knowledge test consists of questions about traffic signs, Pennsylvania's driving laws, and safe driving practices. Safe2Drive's online Pennsylvania Driver Education course is a great way to help you prepare for this test! The test consists of 18 multiple-choice questions, and you'll have to get 15 questions correct in order to pass. You'll have to pass the test before earning your learner's permit.
- The vision exam. You'll have to take a vision exam at the Driver License Center with or without corrective lenses. If you normally wear corrective lenses, make sure you bring them with you.
New Pennsylvania Residents
If you've moved to Pennsylvania from outside of the state and want to drive in Pennsylvania, you'll need a PA driver's license within 60 days of establishing residency in the state. To apply for a PA license, you'll need to go to a Driver License Center, surrender your out-of-state license, pass the vision test, and complete the driver's license application. You'll also need to present identification and residency documents.
What to Bring to the Driver License Center
What you need to bring with you to the Driver License center will depend on what type of license you're applying for. In general, you'll need:
- Proof of identity documents (e.g., birth certificate, certificate of US citizenship,, or valid US passport)
- Name change documentation (e.g., marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order)
- Proof of residency documents (e.g., tax records, lease agreements, or current utility bills)
If you're a Pennsylvania resident and need to complete a driver education course to satisfy licensing requirements, click below to learn more about Safe2Drive's online Pennsylvania Driver Education course!
Register for PA Driver's Ed Course