What’s the Driving Age in New York State?

You can apply for a New York State learner permit at 16 and—provided you've completed a driver education course—upgrade to a full driver's license at 17.
Written by Jasmine Kanter
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
background
The Graduated Driver's Licensing (GDL) system in
New York State
allows young drivers a learner's permit at 16 and a full driver's license at 18. Take a Classroom Driver Education Course and you could be on the road with full privileges as early as 17 years old.

What’s the minimum driving age in New York State?

As soon as they turn 16 years old, aspiring New York drivers can apply for a learner or junior permit, which grants supervised driving privileges. In order to drive unsupervised, you'll have to wait until you turn 18, or meet a special education requirement to upgrade to a Class D or senior license at 17.

What’s New York State's Graduated Drivers License (GDL) system?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
almost seven young drivers die every day
. Teens between the ages of 16-19 are at the highest risk of a fatal motor vehicle crash. In an effort to address the dangers posed by the inexperience and reckless behavior of new drivers, New York State introduced the Graduated Driver's License (GDL) system. 
Under the GDL, the permits and licenses issued by the
New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (NYS DMV)
gradually increase driving privileges while decreasing restrictions, giving driving students the chance to learn the rules of the road. Since its introduction, the GDL has resulted in
an 80% reduction of car crashes involving 16 and 17-year-olds
.
From driving novice to master, you'll hold a total of three different cards, each with its own benefits:
  • Learner Permit, also known as a Junior Permit: supervised driving with a parent, guardian, or instructor
  • Junior License, also known as a Class DJ (Junior Driver) license: limited unsupervised driving during certain hours and in certain counties
  • Senior License, also known as a Class D (Driver) license: full, unrestricted, and unsupervised driving privileges
You'll find an overview of these permits and licenses, plus other links, on the NYS DMV's
Younger Driver Resources page
.
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How to get your learner (junior) permit in New York State

The first step to getting a New York State driver's license is to apply for a learner permit, which will allow you to learn the basics of operating a car. You can start the paperwork as soon as you're 16.
You have the choice of applying for either a standard, enhanced, or REAL ID-compliant learner permit. There are
benefits to enhanced and REAL ID cards
, but considering they require more documentation and an additional $30 fee, you might not find them worth it unless you're a frequent domestic flyer.
You can find
the full guide to applying for all three types online
, or use the friendly wizard to find what you need for a
standard permit
or an
enhanced or REAL ID-compliant permit

In-Person

To receive a learner's permit in person, you'll need to
locate your nearest DMV
and:
The knowledge test (which you can take in your
choice of language
) requires a score of at least 80% to pass. This includes correct answers to at least 50% of all road sign-related questions. The
New York State Driver’s Manual
has all the answers you need, plus some handy practice tests to ease you into the real thing.

Online

To submit an application and take a knowledge test online, head to the NYS DMV website to
start the process
. You'll need a computer with an internet connection as well as a working webcam, which will take snapshots through the test to verify that you aren't receiving assistance. Expect the test to take between 30 and 40 minutes.
If you didn't pass, you can resubmit your application and retake the test in six hours. If you passed, check your email for a special link to reserve an appointment at the DMV. When you show up, you can present your documents, take a vision test, have your photo taken, pay the fee, and receive your learner permit.
That’s it!
Book a road test
six months from now, start practicing, and have fun!

Learner (junior) permit restrictions and purpose

Learner permits have their perks—you're able to get your first taste of the road while you practice supervised driving. But junior drivers are also subject to
restrictions
: first of all, you'll always need to be accompanied by another driver who's at least 21 with a valid New York driver's license. Secondly, you can only drive between 5:00 AM and 9:00 PM.
Breaking either of these restrictions could lead to a fine of $75-$300 and a maximum jail sentence of 15 days.

How to get your junior (Class DJ) license in New York State

With your learner permit, you'll need to practice supervised driving for at least six months before you can take a road test. Your supervising driver can be a parent, guardian, or professional driving instructor.
If you know your supervising driver(s), you'll need to log at least 50 hours of practice—15 of which should be after sunset and 10 of which should be in moderate to heavy traffic.
If you choose to work with an instructor, you have a choice between a
Classroom Pre-Licensing Course
or a Driver Education Course offered through your high school or college. The latter is the fastest way to a full license (more on that later). If you're 18 years or older, you may be able to complete an
Online Pre-Licensing Course
. Finishing any of these options will grant you a certificate of completion that'll be valid for two years.
On the day of your road test, head to your
chosen DMV testing location
with:
  • Your learner permit
  • A registered and insured vehicle in which to do the test
  • Accompanying driver age 21 or older with a valid NYS driver's license
Plus one of the following:
  • If you practiced supervised driving with a parent, guardian, or other: A completed
    Certification of Supervised Driving (MV-262)
  • If you completed a Classroom Pre-Licensing Course: a Pre-Licensing Course Certificate (MV-278)
  • If you completed a high school or college Driver Education Course: a Student Certificate of Completion (MV-285)
  • If you completed an Online Pre-Licensing Course: nothing, the course provider will notify the DMV of your completion within 48 hours
If you fail twice, you'll have to
buy two more road tests online
or by phone at 1-518-402-2100. If you pass, you'll receive a temporary license that you use in combination with your learner permit until the official version arrives in the mail.
Congratulations, you've earned a junior license! Like your learner permit, it's valid for five years. Time to enjoy your newfound freedom on the road and keep your nose clean!
Key Takeaway Take a road test after at least six months with your learner permit. Don't forget your permit, proof of practice, vehicle, and accompanying driver if you want to go home with a junior license.

Probationary junior license (Class DJ) license restrictions and purpose

A new license includes new privileges as well as new restrictions. You're now permitted to drive solo to and from school, work, and social events from 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM. You can even bring one passenger! If you want to bring more passengers or go somewhere other than school and work at night, ask a supervising driver to accompany you.
Finally, junior license holders are prohibited from driving unsupervised in New York City at any time. You should also stay off any street, bridge, or tunnel managed by the Tri-Borough Bridge and Tunnel Authority and certain parkways. There are further rules for driving around Long Island and Upstate counties; for full details, see the NYS Driver's Manual.

When can you get a senior (Class D) driver’s license in New York State?

As long as you don't violate any traffic laws or restrictions on your junior license, a senior license (also known as a Class D license) will be mailed to you once you turn 18.
However, if you completed a Driver Education Course through your high school or college, you can apply for a senior license at 17. After passing your road test, bring your new junior license and the Student Certificate of Completion (MV-285) that you received from your course to a DMV office to make the switch. 
Caution: if you don't make the upgrade, you'll still be bound by the conditions of a junior license, even if you're eligible for a senior version.
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Exceptions

If your driver's license was revoked, you can apply for either a
conditional or restricted-use license
, depending on whether the traffic violation(s) you committed was related to substance abuse or not. A conditional license carries the additional requirement of enrolling in an Impaired Driver Program (IDP). You'll need to make an application in person at a properly-equipped NYS DMV office.
If you have a valid driver's license from another state or country, you don't have to apply for a New York State driver's license unless you plan to become a resident. New residents have 30 days to
exchange a different state or foreign driver's license for a
New York license.

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FAQs

At 16, you're eligible only for a learner permit in New York State. You'll have to wait until you're 18 (or 17, with a Driver Education Course certificate of completion) to receive a full driver's license.
Yes! If you pass a road test after having completed a Driver Education Course through your high school or college, you're eligible for a full driver's license. Bring your junior license and the course certificate of completion to the DMV to exchange them.
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