Virginia Teenage Driving Laws: What Teens and Parents Need to Know

To ensure safe driving practices, Virginia teenage driving laws include restrictions on instructional permits and rules for provisional licenses.
Written by John Pickhaver
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
background
Virginia
law puts various restrictions on teenagers due to the higher risks affiliated with new drivers. Drivers under the age of 18 may only transport one passenger younger than 21 unless accompanied by a licensed parent or other adult acting in place of a parent.
This is just one of a few of the laws laid out by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for teenage drivers. If you’re a teen looking to get your license in Virginia—or if you have a parent with a soon-to-be licensed driver—now’s the time to get familiar with the state’s teen driving laws. 
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Rules for teen drivers in Virginia

Refer to the
Virginia Driver Handbook
for special rules for minors driving along Old Dominion’s roads. A minor is anyone under the age of 18—which happens to be in the highest risk category out of all Virginia drivers. 
The fatal crash rate for 16-year-old drivers is 40% higher than for those who are 18 years old and 30% higher for those who are 19!
Because of the heightened risks, Virginia requires teen drivers to have a learner’s permit before applying for a license. 

With a learner’s permit

In Virginia, the driving age starts at 15 ½ years of age. Once a teenager reaches that age, they’re able to
apply for an instructional permit
provided they have the approval of a parent or guardian. 
A learner’s permit allows the teen to drive so long as a licensed driver 21 years or older is seated in the front passenger seat. In addition to holding a valid driver’s license, the passenger must be alert and assist the teenage driver.
The accompanying licensed driver may be under the age of 21, but must be at least 18 years old and related to the teen driver in one of the following ways: 
  • Legal guardian
  • Brother or sister
  • Half-brother or half-sister
  • Stepbrother or stepsister
It's also important to note that you may only transport one passenger under the age of 18 outside of family members while driving with your learner’s permit.
The earliest you can obtain your license after holding a learner’s permit is at 16 years and 3 months. If you are age 19 or older, you must hold a learner’s permit for 60 days or present a driver’s education certificate of completion to apply for a driver’s license. 
Not only is cruising the roads with an adult a great way to practice safe driving skills, but it’s also a critical part of getting your license in Virginia. Teen drivers in Virginia must complete at least 45 hours of supervised driving practice, including 15 hours of night driving
Refer to
Virginia DMV Parent/Teen Driving Guide
form to correctly log your driving hours to submit to the DMV alongside your license application.
As with most laws, there are some exceptions. You’re able to drive with your valid learner's permit without a licensed driver if you:
  • Hold a valid Virginia Driver Training Certificate (DTS B) showing completion of the classroom and in-vehicle portions of driver education
  • Hold a DTS B signed by a parent or legal guardian
  • You are at least 16 years and 3 months old and have not yet turned 18 years old 
  • You’ve had your learner's permit in good standing for nine months

Teen driver restrictions

While Virginia does not have a provisional license per se for drivers under the age of 18, there are an additional set of rules teenagers must follow while out on the road. 
There are good reasons for these extra restrictions placed on teenage drivers and they have to do with safety. Such safety measures are needed early in a teen’s driving career as they accrue more experience behind the wheel. 
Curfew 
While under the age of 18, Virginia law restricts teenagers from driving between midnight to 4 AM. There are, however, some exceptions that include: 
  • If you are going to or coming from work
  • If you are going or coming from an activity associated with school or a public organization
  • If you are driving with a spouse that is over the age of 18 and has their license or a parent or another adult who is fulfilling the parental role
  • If you are in an emergency situation or you are responding to emergency calls as a firefighter or EMT
Passenger Limits
Unless you are 18 or older, you may only travel with one passenger under the age of 21, unless you’re also accompanied by a licensed parent (or other adult acting in place of a parent) who is riding in the front passenger seat. 
Once you’ve had your license for one year, you may transport as many as three passengers under the age of 21 under the below circumstances:
  • You are in an emergency situation
  • You are going to or coming from a school-related event
  • A licensed driver that is at least 21 years of age is seated in the passenger seat 
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Virginia teenage drivers and cell phone use

Texting and driving is a major issue for all drivers but is of particular concern for parents who have teenage drivers. 
Using a cell phone to text, make calls, or check social media while driving is a prime example of distracted driving that leads to thousands of car accidents each year, according to data from the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
The rules around cell phone use for teenage drivers in Virginia aren’t complicated: teen drivers are prohibited from using a cellular device while operating a vehicle even if the device is not handheld. 
The exception? If there’s an emergency, teen drivers are permitted to operate a cellular device. But even then the vehicle must be lawfully parked or stopped.
MORE:Texting and driving laws, explained

Penalties for violating Virginia teen driving laws

Violations of either the curfew, passenger, or cell phone restrictions may lead to the suspension of your driver's license. 
You can find a full guide to Virginia driver’s license requirements and the application process here. 
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