What is the Driving Age in Kentucky?

You can get your learner's permit at 16 years old in Kentucky. You will need to have a license for six months before you can drive without restrictions.
Written by Sean Boehme
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Kentucky is one of many states that uses the Graduated Driver Licensing program to help prevent teenage motor accidents. Although young people hoping to drive in Kentucky can get a permit at 16, they won’t be able to get an unrestricted license until they are 17. 
Learning to drive is exciting, but getting behind the wheel can be dangerous, especially when you’re inexperienced. Many states have come to recognize the risks of teenagers learning to drive, developing driver education programs in response to help keep these teens safe.
But with every state having different rules, keeping track of which rules you need to follow can be tough.
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What is the driving age in Kentucky?

The youngest age at which you can apply for a learner’s permit in Kentucky is 16. Young drivers need to have a permit for six months before moving onto a restricted license.
Once you’ve had the restricted license for six months and completed all other requirements, you can apply for an unrestricted driver’s license. This means the youngest a Kentucky driver can be to get an unrestricted driver’s license is 17 years old.

What is the Graduated Driver Licensing program in Kentucky?

Despite teenagers only accounting for 6% of the drivers in Kentucky, they are involved in a whopping 20% of all highway crashes in the state. This is a high figure, and part of the reason why Kentucky has instituted the
Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program
The GDL program seeks to curb teenage motor accidents by having young drivers go through a more rigorous education before obtaining an unrestricted license. With the resisted license provided by GDL, teens are unable to drive at night or with a large group of their peers, both of which are situations that tend to lead to more accidents.
The GDL program breaks down into the following three stages:
  • Permit phase: All driving must be supervised.
  • Intermediate license phase: Most driving can be unsupervised but must adhere to specific limitations.
  • Full unrestricted license phase: Standard driving privileges do not have limitations.

How to get your learner’s permit in Kentucky

Anyone under 18 who’s looking to drive in Kentucky will have to adhere to the GDL program implemented throughout the state. To get started, potential drivers should apply for their learner’s permit as soon as they turn 16
To get your learner’s permit, you’ll need to pay an in-person visit to a
Driver Licensing Regional Office
within the state. You will need to bring: 
  • Proof of your current residence
  • Your Social Security card
  • Your birth certificate or a certified copy of the document
Assuming you are under 18, a parent or guardian will have to accompany you to the office. While there, you’ll need to pass both a written test and a vision test. Be sure to study for the written test using the
Kentucky Driver Manual
Assuming you have all the necessary documentation and pass the tests without issues, you’ll be on your way with an instruction permit in no time. Getting your permit early is excellent for young drivers since you’ll need to have it for 180 days before moving on to the next GDL phase.

Learner’s permit restrictions

You’re Kentucky instructional permit is quite limited when compared to an actual license. You can only operate a vehicle using the permit if you are accompanied by someone 21 or older with a valid driver's license.
When driving with a learner’s permit you are not permitted to drive between 12 and 6 a.m. You cannot drive with more than one individual 20 or younger to whom you are not related in the car. 
MORE: How to get cheap car insurance for young drivers
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How to get your intermediate driver’s license in Kentucky

Once you’ve had your learner’s permit for over 180 days and completed 60 hours of practice driving, you can apply to take a
driving skills test
and move on to the next GDL phase. Assuming that you pass the test, you’ll be rewarded with an intermediate license.

Intermediate driver’s license restrictions

Unlike with a Kentucky learner’s permit, you’ll no longer need to be accompanied by a licensed adult to drive with an intermediate driver’s license. Many of the other restrictions you faced with the permit will still apply, however.
This mean’s that you still aren’t allowed to drive from the hours of 12 to 6 a.m., meaning you can’t drive a car with multiple unrelated young people in it. Although these rules may seem frustrating, Kentucky has put them in place to avoid further tragedy among young drivers.

How to get an unrestricted driver’s license in Kentucky

Once you’ve had your intermediate driver’s license for 180 days and completed the state’s required driver’s education, you’ll have the opportunity to apply for an unrestricted driver’s license. Assuming you follow every step as soon as it becomes available, you could get the license when aged 17
Since the license is unrestricted, you’ll be allowed to drive at night and allowed to drive young people around, even if they are unrelated to you. However, the license will be marked as “under 21,” and you can get into serious trouble for driving with even a drop of alcohol in your system

Exceptions for older drivers

The steps and phases described above pertain to Kentucky’s GDL program, which is only necessary for young drivers to complete. Potential drivers over the age of 21 will find that their process to obtain a license is much easier. 
If you’re over 21, you only have to drive with a permit for one month before you can apply for a driver’s license. You also don’t have to apply for a limited driver’s license, and can instead obtain the unrestricted license outright
You’ll still need to pass the same vision, written, and driving skills tests as a younger driver would. 

How to save on car insurance in Kentucky

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Although you can get a Kentucky learner’s permit the day you turn 16, you’ll need to wait 180 days before applying for a limited driver’s license. You’ll need to wait an additional 180 days before applying for an unrestricted license.
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