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A driver's permit, learner's permit, learner's license or provisional license, is a restricted license that is given to a person who is learning to drive, but has not yet satisfied the requirement to obtain a driver's license. Having a driver's permit for a certain length of time is usually one of the requirements (along with driver's education and a road test) for applying for a full driver's license. To get a learner's permit, one must typically pass a written permit test, traffic, and rules of the road.
Learner's permit by country
Laws regarding learner's permits in Australia differ between states. However, all states require a number of hours supervised driving to be undertaken and for the permit to be held for a set period. The age to get a Learner Permit is 16 in all states and territories except the ACT where it is 15 and 9 months. When on your learners permit you have to log 75–120 hours depending on the state you are in, and must obtain at least 10 night hours. You can be supervised or taught in your log book hours by any person/persons holding a full license. They must sign the log book for allocated hours.
A provisionally learners license can be obtained after passing a theoretical exam less than three years earlier. The minimum age for a learners permit is 18 years. The learner needs to be accompanied by a designated person with a valid driving license. The vehicle needs to bear a clearly visible predesigned sign with the letter "L".
In Canada, the minimum age varies from province to province and may be 14 or 16. In Ontario, a G1 License is issued to new drivers at the age of 16 after completing a written test. G1 license restrictions include:
- Have time and/or road restrictions, and the learner must drive with a fully licensed driver of at least 4 years. After one year with a G2, the learner may upgrade to their full G class license by taking another road test, which has a major highway component. A similar program is in effect for motorcycles, the M class license.
In Nova Scotia, a beginner's permit (L) is issued to new drivers after the age of 16 after a written test. The L license restrictions include:
- A fully licensed driver must sit in the seat adjacent the new driver
- There can not be additional other passengers
- The learner must have a blood alcohol count of 0
- No time or road restrictions
In Alberta, a learners permit is issued to those who complete a knowledge test, an eye exam and one who is 14 years of age or older. They're then put into a GDL program with restrictions. Some include: having a 0 blood alcohol level, fully licensed driver in passenger seat, no more people than there are seats, and must hold the license for a one-year minimum before upgrading.
In Alberta, one has to pass a basic road test after having a learner's permit for at least a year and at or over the age of 16, then can apply for a Class 5 GDL license, which carries some of the same restrictions, but no longer requires a fully licensed Class 5 non-GDL driver in the passenger seat. Once the person becomes 18 and holds the Class 5 GDL license for at least 2 years, they can do an advanced road test which if they pass, they'll become a fully licensed Class 5 driver.
Since 2010, it's possible to get a learner's permit at 17 in Germany. The only restriction is that a fully licensed and previously stated driver who is at least 30 years old must accompany the learner (but is not allowed to intervene in the drive). That does not apply to light motorcycles, which can be driven freely with this license.
Furthermore, any person who initially gets a driving license has to mind following restrictions for 2 years starting with its issue:
- He must have a blood alcohol count of 0 (this applies at least until the age of 21)
- Any penalties are stricter than for advanced drivers
With 18, the learner's permit will be automatically replaced by a normal driving license - no further test is needed. These legal circumstances in Germany are comparable to those in Austria in that matter - thus, it's possible to cross their border with a learner's permit.
In Hong Kong any person aged 18 or above can apply for a Learner's Driving License for private cars, light goods vehicle and motorcycles. For other types of vehicle the age required is 21 and the applicant must have a valid private car or light goods vehicle driving license for 3 years. Unlike other jurisdictions, a learner must be supervised by an approved driving instructor instead of an ordinary fully licensed driver, or attending an approved driving school to learn to drive (except motorcycles, which learners can drive on their own, but motorcycle learners must pass a motorcycle course from an approved driving school before they can learn to drive on road). L-plate is also required when the learner is practicing.
In India, the minimum age at which a provisional licence is valid is 18 (and 16 for riding a gear less scooter). When driving under a provisional license, the learner must be accompanied by a driver who holds a full driving license. The supervisor has to be in view of the road and be in a position to control the vehicle. The provisional license is available only after passing the theory test. A full licence can be acquired only after passing the driving test. Once the learner has passed the theory test, they may take the practical driving test. Once the practical driving test has been taken and passed, a full driving licence will be automatically issued. While it is possible to take both tests immediately after each other, most learner drivers take a period between taking the theory and applying for a practical test to carry out driving lessons, either with their supervisor or a professional Driving school.
The vehicle being driven by the learner must also be fitted with L-plates on both the back and front of the vehicle. This tells other road users that the vehicle is being operated by a driver without their full license and that they may make mistakes easily and that the driver may not be fully competent yet. The L-plate consists of a white square plate with a large red L in the middle.
In New Zealand any person 16 years or over can sit a learner's licensing test, which is a theory multiple choice test on road rules. Once they have passed this, they may drive with an adult who has had their full license for at least two years. They must display L plates at all times when driving. You may drive up to the speed of 100 km/h in allowed areas .You may carry passengers with an adult in the car that has had their full licence for more than two years. After at least 6 months have passed, they take a road test in order to receive their restricted license. On a restricted license, the learner may only drive between 5am and 10pm, with no passengers other than their dependent children, spouse, or persons holding a full license for more than 2 years. If you are a learner, you may only drive between 5am and 10pm. Learners who sit the practical test in an automatic car are only legally allowed to drive an automatic while restricted. People can also sit a full license road test after 18 months or a year if they have undertaken a defensive driving course. In March 2010 the New Zealand Government announced changes to licence regulations which included raising the minimum age for a learner's licence to 16, since September 2011 the minimum age to attempt to obtain a learners licence is the age of 16.
In Norway, the learner may drive as long the learner is over 16 years of age, have passed a basic course in the rules of the road and first aid, and a person 25 or above who has had their driver's license for more than 5 years is present.
In Singapore, any person 18 or above may obtain a provisional driving licence for a fee of S$25.00 after passing the Basic Theory Test. The provisional driving licence is valid for 6 months from the date of payment, and permits the holder to drive on public roads (with a few exceptions) in the presence of a Certified Driving Instructor. A car driven by a learner must display an L-plate on the front and rear of the car. Passing the Final Theory Test enables a learner to apply for the Practical Driving Test. A valid provisional driving licence and a photo ID must be presented to be allowed to take the practical test. Should a learner's provisional driving licence expire before the date of their practical test, he or she will have to renew it at the same cost.
A Qualified Driving Licence (QDL) is awarded to a person who has passed the practical test and made a one-time payment of S$50.00. Any person who has possessed a QDL for a period of less than a year is required to display a probation plate at the top right of their front and rear windscreens. The probation plate is made of a reflective material and consists of an orange triangle on a yellow background.
See Driving licence in Singapore for detailed requirements of each class of licence.
A South African learners license consists of three sections with the following criteria required:
- Rules of the road - There are 30 questions in this category with 22 being the pass mark
- Vehicle controls - There are 8 questions in this section, the required pass mark is 6
- Road signs, road markings and traffic signals - There are 30 questions in this category with a pass mark of 23
There are primarily three codes that you can choose from:
- Code 1 - This is for motorcycles, motorised tricycle or quadrucycle not more than 125cc and you should be 16 or older on the date of the test. If the motorcycle engine in above 125cc, you will need to be 17 years or older.
- Code 2- This is for motor vehicles, bus and minibus or goods vehicle up to a maximum vehicle mass of 3500 kg. You will need to be 17 years or older on the date of the test.
- Code 3 - This is for motor vehicles exceeding a gross vehicle mass of 3500 kg. You will need to be 18 years or older to apply for a learners license in this category.
You will need to present the following documents when applying for a learners license:
- Identity card or passport
- 2 Recent passport size photographs (colour or black and white)
In South Africa, any person who is of the minimum required age and holds a valid ID document may sit a learner's licence exam. The minimum required age varies by vehicle class and has the following minimum age restrictions:
- for a motorcycle (without a sidecar) with an engine not exceeding 125 cc – 16 years
- for light motor vehicles with a mass not exceeding 3 500 kilograms – 17 years
- for all other vehicles (also motorcycles with an engine exceeding 125 cc) – 18 years
The Learner's Licence exam is a 68 question multiple choice exam with questions spread over three sections: Rules of the road (30 questions); Signs, signals and road markings (30 questions), and vehicle controls (8 questions).  If you hold a learner’s licence you are allowed to drive only when you are supervised by a licensed driver. If the category of vehicle you are driving requires a professional driving permit, the licensed driver must also hold a professional driving permit.South African Learners must carry their Learner's Licence with them whenever they are driving a vehicle and have L plates on the rear window. The Learner's Licence is valid for 24 months.
In Sweden, the minimum age is 16 years old to get a basic car learner's permit; 17 years and six months are required for more advanced light vehicle combinations and up to 23 years for heavy vehicle combinations. Körkortslag 4kap 2§
In the United Kingdom, the minimum age at which a provisional licence is valid is 17 (16 for driving a tractor, riding a scooter, or those receiving Disability Mobility Allowance). When driving under a provisional license, the learner must be accompanied by a driver who has held a full driving license for three years, and who is 21 or over. The supervisor has to be in view of the road, however the road safety act 1988 states that the supervisor does not have to be in the passenger seat, although the passenger in the front seat does have to be over the age of 15. A full licence can be acquired as soon as the provisional license is received, unlike many other countries where applicants must wait a minimum of 6–12 months with this being said, before getting a full license. The provisional license is available without taking a test, although to get a full, unrestricted license - the applicant must take a written 'Theory' test Containing a 50 Multiple Choice Questions and 14 Clip Hazard Perception Test both of which are done on a computer at one of the many DSA (Driving Standards Agency) Test centres. Once the learner has passed the theory test, they may take the practical driving test. Once the practical driving test has been taken and passed a full driving licence will be automatically issued. While it is possible to take both tests immediately after each other, most learner drivers take a period between taking the theory and applying for a practical test to carry out driving lessons, either with their supervisor or a professional Driving school.
The vehicle being driven by the learner must also be fitted with L-plates on both the back and front of the vehicle. This tells other road users that the vehicle is being operated by a driver without their full license and that they may make mistakes easily and that the driver may not be fully competent yet. The L-plate consists of a white square plate (often tied to the vehicle or attached by magnets) with a large red L in the middle. In Wales the L-plate or the D-plate may be used due to bilingual laws in effect in Wales. If the vehicle is operated by multiple named drivers (As specified by the car insurance policy), then the L-Plate should be removed and stored if the current driver holds a full license. When the learner has passed, they can get a non-compulsory 'P' plate, which shows that they have just passed their test, and so may not have much experience on the road. The P plate has a white background, with a green 'P'.
In the UK, provisional licence holders are disallowed from driving on Motorways until they pass the practical test.
As with drivers on a full licence, the driver must ensure that all passengers under the age of 14 wear a seatbelt, and therefore reserves the right to refuse to travel if the passengers do not comply with this order. If caught with unsecured passengers under the age of 14 the owner of the license may receive points or an on-the-spot fine. Passengers aged 14 years or over are not the responsibility of the driver and must ensure they wear a seatbelt themselves.
In Northern Ireland for one year after the passing of a driving test, the driver is defined as a "restricted driver" who must not exceed 45 mph (72 km/h) and must display an "R-plate" consisting of an amber sans-serif R on a white background.
Once you have passed both tests you are on a probationary period, if you get 6 or more points within 2 years of passing your test, your licence will be withdrawn and you will need to retake your theory and practical driving tests again. After 2 years the limit on the amount of points you can build up on your licence will double to 12.
In the United States In order for a minor to get a learner's permit, they must have signed permission from a parent or guardian. After six months of driving supervised with a permit, and reaching the requisite age, a person can apply for a provisional license. Obtaining a provisional license allows certain restrictions to be lifted from the driver, such as the times that they are allowed to drive, and the number of people allowed in the car. In some states, permit holders are allowed to drive to and from school or work with a permit, without a supervising driver. And in the case of California, Nebraska, Oregon, Maine, New York, Florida, Kansas, Illinois and Arizona, permitted drivers, with a signed note from a legal guardian, can legally drive family members under the age of 21 without adult supervision.
A provisional license allows the driver to drive to and from school and work. In order to obtain a provisional license the licensee be at least the age of 16 and must hold their instructional permit for 6 months after obtaining it in the following states: California, New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, Georgia [as per 2015, holding period 1 year and 1 day], Texas, Oklahoma [if a student is 18+ holding period is 1 month], Florida [for the student under 18 holding period is 12 months], Nevada, Washington, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, New York (Excludes NYC) North Carolina and South Carolina. While the licensee has a provisional license they are able to drive between the hours of 6am-9pm without supervision(excludes the following states: Alabama, Colorado, Arizona, Delaware, Ohio and Illinois.)
In some states, but not all, an adult learner need only have the driver's permit for a few days before being able to get a driver's license. If the adult learner is over the age of 21, he/she may take the written test and pass for a permit, then is granted to take the driving test for a license on the same day if all fees are paid, and if it is convenient for both the DMV and the adult learner. In the state of Colorado, an adult learner over the age of 21 can take both tests on the same day, so long as the driving test is scheduled by appointment and the learner has passed and paid in full the written exam/permit first.
To obtain a restricted license, the driver must be the minimum age for testing and have had his or her permit for the required duration. A computerized knowledge test is first required. After that is passed, a 6 hrs drive test is given over a two-day period. It consists of driving around a residential neighborhood. There are no hazard tests. If you fail the test, you must usually wait a week or two to retake it.
In the state of New Hampshire, a permit is not given but the young driver may begin to drive with a parent or guardian, or an adult 25 years of age, at the age of 15 and a half.
Please note that this article is speaking in general. To see specifics on Learner's Permits, including how long you must have one to be considered for a Driver's License, please see your state's Department of Motor Vehicles website.
A driver operating with a learner's permit must be accompanied by an adult 21 years of age or older in the passenger seat at all times.
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