What is the Driving Age in Washington?

New drivers in Washington must be at least 15 years old to get a learner’s permit, and can get their intermediate license at 16 years old.
Written by Amber Reed
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Washington requires teen drivers to go through a Graduated Driver’s License program (GDL) while they learn to operate a motor vehicle. This program allows new drivers who are 15 years old to drive under supervision with a learner’s permit, and upgrade to an intermediate license at 16 years old.
Getting behind the wheel for the first time can be super exciting, but the exact steps to get your first license might be a little complicated! That’s why licensed broker and
car insurance
, put together this handy guide on teen driver’s licenses in Washington. Plus, we'll also show you how to find affordable
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What is the driving age in Washington?

In Washington, teen drivers can get their learner’s permit at 15 years old. The learner’s permit can then be upgraded to an intermediate license once they are 16 years old and have had their permit for at least six months. The intermediate license becomes an unrestricted driver’s license once the driver turns 18 years old.

What is the Graduated Driver’s License program in Washington?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) tells us that car accidents are the second leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States. It’s a sad reality, but Washington—like many states—is trying to reduce the rate of teenage car accidents by having new drivers participate in a Graduated Driver’s License program (GDL).
Through the GDL program, teen drivers have the chance to gain driving experience in incremental steps before they get their unrestricted driver’s license. Here are the three stages of Washington’s GDL program:
  • Learner’s permit: supervised driving
  • Intermediate license: limited unsupervised driving
  • Unrestricted license: standard driver’s license with no limitations

How to get your learner’s permit in Washington

If you’re under the age of 18 and want to start driving in Washington, the first type of license you can get is a learner’s permit. You can get a learner’s permit as soon as you turn 15 years old as long as you’re enrolled in a
driver’s education course
. If you choose not to take driver’s ed, then you can’t get your learner’s permit until you are 15 1/2 years old.
To get your permit, you can apply at any
Washington Department of Motor Vehicles
office—but make sure to bring a parent or legal guardian with you, since they’ll need to sign a 
Parental Authorization Affidavit
. You’ll also need to provide your Social Security number, present the
required identification documents
, and pay a $25licensing
. Teen drivers who have opted not to take driver’s education are also required to pass a
knowledge exam
If you need to take the knowledge exam, you can prepare by studying the
Washington Driver Guide
and taking the DMV’s
online practice test
. The exam is made up of 40 multiple choice questions, and you must get a score of at least 80% to pass.

Instruction permit restrictions

Young drivers with a Washington learner’s permit are allowed to operate a motor vehicle as long as they are accompanied by a licensed driver who has at least five years of driving experience. You are permitted to have other passengers in the car as well, as long as they wear a seat belt.
A Washington learner’s permit is valid for one year.

How to get your intermediate driver’s license in Washington

After you’ve had your learner’s permit for at least six months and have turned 16 years old, you can apply for an intermediate driver's license in Washington—as long as you have a clean driving record and have completed a driver’s education course. Teens that haven’t taken driver’s education can’t get an intermediate license, and must wait until they are 18 years old to apply for an unrestricted license.
To apply for a Washington intermediate driver’s license, head down to DMV with a parent or legal guardian—they’ll need to sign another
parental consent form
—and provide the following:
  • A log that shows you have 40 hours of supervised driving practice with at least 10 hours of nighttime driving
  • Your Social Security number
You will need to participate in a
vision screening
, but once that’s complete you can
schedule your road test
. You’ll need to bring your own vehicle and demonstrate skills like driving in traffic, parallel parking, backing out of a driveway, using your turn signals, and other driving fundamentals. To pass the road test, you need a score of 80%
If you fail your road test, you can immediately schedule another one—but it’s usually a good idea to get more driving practice first.
Key Takeaway Remember to bring your learner’s permit, driving log, proof of identity, and Social Security number when you apply for your Washington intermediate license.

Intermediate driver’s license restrictions

Once you receive your Washington intermediate driver’s license, you may drive a car without supervision, with some restrictions. Here are the rules you are required to follow:
  • For the first six months you have your intermediate license, you may not have any passengers under the age of 20 in the car unless they are an immediate family member.
  • After the first six months, you may not have more than three passengers under the age of 20 in the car unless they are immediate family members.
  • You can not drive between the hours of 1am and 5am unless you are accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 25 years old.
  • You may not use a cellphone (including hands free devices) while driving unless you need to report an emergency to the police or call 911.
Once you turn 18 years old, these restrictions are automatically lifted and your intermediate license becomes a full, unrestricted driver’s license.

How to save on car insurance in Washington

Getting your Washington driver’s license is a major milestone, but don’t forget to get a good
car insurance
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In Washington, teen drivers who are 15 years old can get their learner’s permit, which will allow them to drive under the supervision of a licensed adult.
Teen drivers who are 16 years old, have held a learner’s permit for six months, and who have completed a driver’s education course can apply for a Washington intermediate driver’s license to drive alone under certain circumstances. Teen drivers who do not take driver’s ed will need to wait until they are 18 years old to get an unrestricted license.
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