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How To Get a Driver’s License in Virginia

I remember what it was like to be a teen. From my first day in high school, I began dreaming of two things — getting contact lenses and getting a driver’s license I knew how to drive by the end of my freshman year, thanks to my friends with cars letting me drive, but that elusive license had to wait ….. It seemed like forever.

How do you get a driver’s license in Virginia?

1) Bring the necessary ID documents when you go for your learner’s permit

At 15 and 6 months of age, you can present yourself (with your parent or legal guardian) at any DMV with your social security card and proof of Virginia residency. Here is a link to help you gather the necessary documents. Don’t be like me and show up without these! After I got over the hardest hurdle (getting my mom to drive me to DMV) and we stood through that long long line for the “information” lady, I was turned away because I hadn’t brought my social security card!

2) Pass the learner’s permit test

It is hard and tricky! Many people fail it over and over.  The best way to prepare yourself to pass it is to get a VA Driver’s Manual (paper copies are free at the DMV) and read it cover-to-cover with a highlighter in hand. Highlight the details you will be likely to forget and go over them just before going in to take the test. You should also do practice test after practice test until you are getting everything right. Here is a great site for free practice tests ranging from easy to expert. Scroll to the bottom to get the tests. Plan on spending several days mastering VA specific questions in these tests.

If you fail the test 3 times, you will not be permitted to try again until you take a 3 Fail Course (Re-examination course). This is basically a review of everything you learned in your Classroom Driver’s Ed class. In fact, if you haven’t passed Driver’s Education in your school yet, then passing the course will count towards the 3 Fail requirement.  But remember, the completion date of your Driver’s Ed course must be after the date of your 3rd failure, or it won’t count and you will still have to take the 3 Fail Course.

3) Learn to drive

Once you have your learner’s permit, you have to wait 9 months before you can get your license. Try to get your parents to use you as the family chauffeur for the full nine months. That way you will be sure to have your full 45 hours and be a safe and competent driver by the time you are eligible to take the road test and get your license.

By the way, if your parents don’t want to teach you, Five 2-hour private lessons at Colonial Driving School will teach you to be a safe and competent driver! Don’t delay in getting your foundation and starting on your 45 hours!

4) Other requirements to fit into your 9 month waiting period

Before you can receive your license, you must prove that you have driven 45 hours with your parents, 15 of which must be at night. You can just use plain paper to log your trips by date, time, and miles driven. If you use a commercial school, the log doesn’t have to be turned in, your parents just sign that it’s done.

You also have to complete both modules of Driver’s Education before you can have your license. These consist of the 30 hour Classroom course and a state-approved Behind-the-Wheel course.

Classroom can be done anytime, but you have to be a fully competent driver to qualify to take Behind-the-Wheel. Behind-the-Wheel doesn’t teach you to drive, it only proves to the state that you can drive.  It’s seven group lessons with other teens in the car observing. You should drive for 50 minutes and observe 50 minutes in each lesson. On your last lesson you take the DMV road test, and if you pass it, we give you your license. (That’s why you have to be a competent driver and complete your 45 hour log before enrolling in the course.)

The license you get after finishing Behind-the-Wheel is called a “Provisional License.” It is basically a certificate that shows you completed all of your requirements. You put it in your wallet with your learner’s permit, and the two documents together constitute a complete license. The Provisional License is good for 6 months, during which time the DMV will contact you to invite you to a licensing ceremony where you will get the permanent hard copy of your license.

If you turn 18 before the 6 months is up, you don’t have to wait for the licensing ceremony, you can just take your Provisional License to DMV and they will give you your hard copy.

So here is your cheat sheet of what it takes to get a driver’s license in Virginia at the earliest possible age:

  1. At 15 and 6 months go to DMV with ID documents and parents to take the test and get your learner’s
  2. Hold your learner’s permit for 9 months
  3. Complete Driver’s Education Classroom
  4. Complete your 45-hour log of hours driven with parents
  5. Complete Behind the Wheel and get your provisional license
  6. On the 9 month anniversary of getting your learner’s, your provisional license will be active and you can drive on your own.

Too good to be true!  Welcome to adulthood. You will never look back.