Driving to School With a Permit in California

If your kids are approaching their mid-teens, it’s time to start thinking about teaching them to drive. In California, driving is a key life skill. Californians drive absolutely everywhere and often can’t rely on public transport to get from A to B. Students will first need a permit to drive and that’s where to begin.

The Golden State is home to over 14 million registered automobiles, which is more than any other state. To give this some context, Texas ranks second with a little over 8 million.

It’s important for young drivers to learn to cope with congested driving routes in highly populated areas.

Woman driving in California - California Places, Travel, and News.

Can You Drive to School With a Permit in California?

The state of California implements a multi-step process for obtaining your official AB 60 license. This comprehensive system is designed to ensure young drivers are protected and receive adequate training experience before they can take trips alone. 

After completing the necessary criteria, California teens can drive to school unaccompanied. However, it can take some time to hit all the requirements before students can hit the road alone. 

Interesting Points About Young Drivers In California

  1. Restricted provisional driver’s licenses are granted to young drivers to protect them and improve road safety
  2. Californian teens can apply for their provisional license when they are 15 and a half years old.
  3. After holding a provisional license for 6 months and fulfilling the necessary criteria, drivers can apply for their official license.
  4. Full license holders can drive alone from the age of 16 but restrictions remain in place until drivers turn 18. 
  5. There are exceptions to driver restrictions, including medical, educational, employment, and family-based exceptions.

School Driving Permit California

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In California, minors can obtain a provisional license, which is issued specifically for drivers under the age of 18. The provisional license scheme was introduced to reduce the number of road traffic accidents among teenage drivers. Inexperience means teens are far more likely to crash than other demographics. 

While provisional licenses aren’t difficult to get, they are highly restricted. Young drivers must earn their credentials through tests, evaluations, and officially logged road hours.

To start the process, a teen driver has to take a trip to the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), alongside a parent or guardian. They must submit the following documentation: 

  • Birth certificate (or proof of age)
  • Social security number
  • Proof of residency in California

The DMV representative will then present a driver’s license application form, called a DL 44. If the minor is under the custody of two parents or guardians, both must sign this form. 

Before a provisional license is granted, the teen must also provide proof of enrollment in an approved driver’s education and training program. A license is invalid until the teen starts the training program. The driving instructor signs the permit to indicate it’s valid. 

What Does a California Permit Allow You to Do?

Once the above steps are completed, the teen driver is free to start practicing. However, they must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, a certified driving instructor, or a California driver’s license holder who is at least 25 years old. 

At What Age Can You Drive in California?

The earliest age you can drive in California is 15 and a half years old. The day a minor reaches these age requirements, they can visit the DMV and complete the steps outlined above to obtain their provisional license.

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However, minors may not apply for a full driver’s license until they are 16 years old. 

California Highway to Santa Ana and Long Beach - California Places, Travel, and News.

Can You Drive Alone with a Permit at 16?

A 16-year-old who has held a provisional license for at least 6 months and completed all the necessary learner criteria can apply for an AB 60 license, permitting them to drive alone. To be granted a driver’s license, you must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Be at least 16 years old.
  • Have held a provisional license for 6 months or more. 
  • Show proof that you completed an approved driver education and training program. 
  • Provide a signed document from parents or guardians and your driving verifying that you completed 50 hours of driving practice, of which 10 took place at night. 
  • Pass the state driving test. 
  • Pay all application fees. 

When the driver’s license is granted, the holder is free to drive to school alone. However, there are still some restrictions. Minors may not drive unaccompanied between 11 pm and 5 am. They are not permitted to carry any passengers under the age of 20 years old unless they are accompanied by a parent, guardian, or 25-year-old license holder. 

These limitations remain in place until the driver is 18, when they receive full, unrestricted driving privileges. Violations of driver rules can result in suspensions or having your license revoked. 

Man driving through Southern California deserts with mountains behind - California Places, Travel, and News.

Exceptions To Teen Driving Restrictions

There are certain exceptions to the restrictions surrounding teen drivers and provisional license holders. If restricted drivers can prove that they have a necessity to drive in prohibited circumstances, they will not be punished when stopped by the police.

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A signed document from the necessary party is usually valid proof. Under California law, the main exceptions for teen driving restrictions are: 

Medical Grounds

If a parent or guardian is unable to provide reasonable transport alternatives for a minor, they may drive unaccompanied or at night. However, the driver must be able to provide a signed document from a physician, detailing the illness and estimated recovery date.

Educational Activities

A student driver may be entitled to break restrictions if they are driving for a school-authorized activity. The driver must be able to provide a signed document by a school representative, like a principal, dean, or designee. 


Minors may be allowed to drive a vehicle without restrictions if it’s necessary for employment. Signed employment verification is required. 

Family Needs

In certain circumstances, a family member may need to be driven by a minor or restricted license holder. For example, they may be too ill or injured to operate a vehicle safely. The driver must provide a signed note from their parent or guardian, outlining the reason for breaking restrictions and how long they will be required to fulfill these family needs.

Learning To Drive In California

Learning to drive is one of the most exciting parts of growing up. However, it’s important to do it the right way. There are millions of cars on California roads, making it a tricky place to hone the craft.

If you or your child are in the process of earning a permit, take it seriously and don’t skip a step.

Patience, practice, and perseverance are essential in becoming a good driver. By taking the right approach, school trips will be the norm in no time.



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