Novice Driver

Illinois Teen Driving: Novice Drivers Under 21

In Illinois, most people under age 18 learn to drive in high school or at a commercial driver training school licensed by the Secretary of State’s office. Approved driver education classes include at least 30 hours of classroom study and six hours of behind-the-wheel training in a regular passenger vehicle.

In this article:

  1. Obtaining an instruction permit
  2. Driver education
  3. First time drivers
  4. Graduated driver licensing program
    1. Permit phase
    2. Initial licensing phase
    3. Full licensing phase
  5. Parental responsibility
  6. Applying for driver’s license
  7. Related laws

For information about driving a larger vehicle or a motorcycle, please refer to the Rules of the Road for Non-CDL Vehicles, Commercial Driver’s License Study Guide, or Illinois Motorcycle Operator Manual, available at any Driver Services facility or at www.cyberdriveillinois.com.

Obtaining an Instruction Permit

Driver’s license applicants who are age 15-17 may receive an instruction permit with acceptable proof from an authorized driver education provider that they are enrolled in an approved driver education class and/or will start attending an approved driver education class within the next 30 days.

The instruction permit is valid for 24 months and must be held for at least nine consecutive months prior to obtaining a driver’s license if the applicant is age 16 or 17. If applicants are age 17 and 3 months or older, they may apply for an instruction permit without taking a driver education course.

When applying for an instruction permit, applicants must pass the vision screening and written exam for the license classification they are seeking. The test results are valid until the expiration of the permit. An instruction permit allows an individual to drive during the behind-the-wheel portion of a driver education class with an adult instructor occupying the seat next to the driver.

It also allows a person to drive with a parent, legal guardian or responsible adult age 21 or older with a valid license for the type of vehicle being driven and at least one year of driving experience. After individuals have successfully completed the driver education class, they may continue practice driving with an instruction permit, under the direct supervision of a responsible adult as outlined above.

Illinois law requires drivers under age 16 to have at least 50 hours of behind-the-wheel supervised driving, including 10 hours of nighttime supervised driving, in addition to the driver education training, before being eligible to obtain a driver’s license at age 16. A driving log to track the supervised practice hours is available at www.cyberdriveillinois.com or in the Parent-Teen Driving Guide.

See also: Documents required for Illinois driver license, and Other driver’s license requirements.

Driver Education and the Cooperative Driver Testing Program

High school students who successfully complete an accredited driver education course of classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction with a combined grade of A or B may be exempt from taking a facility administered driving exam when applying for a driver’s license. School districts are encouraged to participate in this voluntary program by contacting the Secretary of State’s office. More information on the requirements for this program is available at www.cyberdriveillinois.com.

Upon successful completion of the classroom and behind-the-wheel portions of driver education through a local high school, the Secretary of State’s office will receive notification and add a notation to the individual’s driver’s license record.

After successful completion of a driving exam, the prospective driver may be issued a Cooperative Driver Testing Certificate, which must be signed by the driver education instructor and the student’s parent/legal guardian. The certificate, which expires on the same day as the student’s current instruction permit and will not be extended, must be presented at any Driver Services facility at the time of applying for the driver’s license.

Students under age 18 who drop out of high school cannot have the notation indicating completion placed on their driver’s license record unless:

  1. The instructor has written verification of enrollment in a GED or alternative program;
  2. They have a GED;
  3. Prior to dropping out, they received passing grades in at least eight courses in the previous two semesters; or
  4. They have written consent from their parents or legal guardian and the regional superintendent.

The local superintendent or chief school administrator may waive conditions deemed in the best interest of the student or dropout. Successful completion of driver education may be verified by contacting the Illinois State Board of Education at 217-782-4321.

First-Time Drivers — Age 18-20

Illinois driver’s license applicants who are age 18, 19 or 20 and have not previously been licensed or completed an approved driver education program must complete a six-hour Adult Driver Education Course. The Adult Driver Education Course can only be taught by providers certified by the Office of the Secretary of State. Courses may be taught in a classroom setting or online, depending on the certification of a provider.

Completion of an Adult Driver Education Course from a provider not certified by the Office of the Secretary of State will not be accepted. More information on the Adult Driver Education Course is available at www.cyberdriveillinois.com.

Graduated Driver Licensing Program

Illinois’ Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Program requires drivers age 15-20 to work their way toward full driving privileges. There are three progressive stages beginning at age 15 when most young drivers obtain their learner’s permit. Young drivers must earn the right to move from one phase to the next based on their driving behavior. Each phase of the GDL process sets forth specific guidelines for a teen driver.

Permit Phase — Drivers Age 15

  • Nighttime driving restrictions — Sun.-Thurs., 10 p.m.-6 a.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 p.m.-6 a.m. (local curfews may differ).
  • Permit must be held for a minimum of nine months.
  • Must practice driving a minimum of 50 hours, including 10 hours at night, supervised by a parent or adult age 21 or older with a valid driver’s license.
  • Must not acquire any driving infractions, underage alcohol convictions or court supervisions during the nine-month permit phase.
  • Number of passengers is limited to one in the front seat and the number of safety belts in the back seat.
  • Any wireless/cellphone use while driving, including a hands-free device, is prohibited for a driver under age 19, except in the case of an emergency to contact a law enforcement agency, health care provider or emergency services agency.

Permit is valid for up to two years.

Initial Licensing Phase — Drivers Ages 16-17

  • Nighttime driving restrictions — Sun.-Thurs., 10 p.m.-6 a.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 p.m.-6 a.m. (local curfews may differ).
  • Must maintain a conviction-free driving record for six months prior to turning 18. A traffic conviction during the Initial Licensing Phase may extend restrictions beyond age 18.
  • For the first 12 months of licensing, or until the driver turns 18, whichever occurs first, the number of passengers is limited to one person under age 20, unless the passenger(s) is a sibling, stepsibling, child or stepchild of the driver. After this period, the number of passengers is limited to one in the front seat and the number of safety belts in the back seat.
  • Any wireless/cellphone use while driving, including a hands-free device, is prohibited for a driver under age 19, except in the case of an emergency to contact a law enforcement agency, health care provider or emergency services agency.

Full Licensing Phase — Drivers Ages 18-20

  • No age-related restrictions apply except in cases where a driver fails to move from the Initial Licensing Phase to the Full Licensing Phase.
  • Any wireless/cellphone use while driving, including a hands-free device, is prohibited for a driver under age 19, except in the case of an emergency to contact a law enforcement agency, health care provider or emergency services agency.

For more information about the GDL program, please refer to the Illinois Graduated Driver Licensing Program brochure at  www.cyberdriveillinois.com. Brochures also are available at any local Driver Services facility, high school driver education program or a commercial driving school program.

Parental Responsibility

  • Parental Consent — A driver age 16-17 must have the written consent of a parent/legal guardian to obtain a driver’s license. The parent/legal guardian who gave initial consent may cancel the minor’s license at any time, for any reason, until the driver turns 18 by contacting the Secretary of State’s office. Driving privileges will not be reinstated until the parent/legal guardian who withdrew consent, once again, provides consent or until the driver turns 18, whichever occurs first. The teen driver must reapply for a driver’s license, take all applicable exams and pay the appropriate fees.
  • Parent-Teen Driving Guide — In partnership with the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois High School and College Driver Education Association and the Illinois Parent Teacher Association, the Secretary of State’s office developed a Parent-Teen Driving Guide to assist parents in teaching their teen drivers the skills they need to know before starting to drive on their own. The guide is available at www.cyberdriveillinois.com.
  • Parent-Teen Driving Contract — The Secretary of State’s office provides a voluntary Parent-Teen Driving Contract that establishes parameters and boundaries between parents and a teenager to enable a young driver to acquire safe driving habits and skills. The contract is available in the Parent-Teen Driving Guide or at www.cyberdriveillinois.com.
  • Parental Access to Teen’s Driving Record — The parent/legal guardian of a person under age 18 who holds an instruction permit or graduated driver’s license may access the minor’s driving record at no cost at www.cyberdriveillinois.com, using a personal identification number (PIN) provided by the Secretary of State’s office.

Applying for An Illinois Driver’s License

Driver’s licenses for persons under age 21 are printed vertically with distinct features. To apply for a driver’s license before age 18, applicants must bring the following documents to the Driver Services facility:

  1. Instruction permit;
  2. Acceptable forms of identification;
  3. Affidavit/Consent For Minor To Drive (if applicable);
  4. Cooperative Driver Testing Certificate (if applicable); and
  5. 50-hour driving log with proper signature.

The Secretary of State must have received notification of the applicant’s driver education completion and the notation must appear on the driving record before a driver’s license is issued. Students whose birthdays fall on certain dates are required to pass a driving exam administered at a Driver Services facility even though they may have taken and passed a road test conducted by their driver education instructor.

If applicants receive their driver’s license prior to the expiration of the instruction permit, they may not be required to pay an additional fee when applying for the driver’s license.

See this article for more information about driver’s license requirements and application.

  • Court Supervision for Moving Violations — A driver under age 21 is limited to one court supervision for serious traffic offenses. To obtain court supervision for a traffic violation, a driver under age 21 must attend traffic safety school. A driver under age 18 must appear in court with a parent/legal guardian and also must attend traffic safety school. If receiving court supervision for certain alcohol-related violations, a driver under age 18 will be denied a full graduated driver’s license for nine months.
  • Loss of Driving Privileges for Moving Violations — A driver under age 21 convicted of two or more moving violations within a 24-month period will have his/her driver’s license suspended for a minimum of 30 days. The length of the suspension varies according to the seriousness of the traffic offenses. A driver may be required to complete a driver remedial education course as part of reinstatement of driving privileges. This information will be indicated on the suspension notice. A suspended driver may be, but is not always, eligible for a Restricted Driving Permit during the suspension period.
  • Driver’s License Suspension for Alcohol Consumption — A person under age 21 who receives court supervision for possession, consumption, purchase or receipt of alcohol will receive a three-month driver’s license suspension. A conviction will result in a minimum six-month suspension of driving privileges.
  • Driver’s License Suspension for Nighttime Driving Restriction Violation — Persons under age 18 who violate the nighttime driving restriction during the Permit Phase or the Initial Licensing Phase listed on page 18 may have their driving privileges suspended.
  • Crash Involving Bodily Harm or Death — Persons under age 18 who are charged with an offense due to a crash where a passenger was seriously injured or killed may be denied issuance/renewal of their driver’s license. Alcohol need not play a factor in the crash.
  • Non-Adjudicated Traffic Citation — Persons under age 18 who have been issued a traffic citation that has not been adjudicated by the courts may be denied issuance of their driver’s license.
This article about Illinois Teen Driving: Novice Drivers Under 21 was last updated in 2018. If any of our information is incomplete or outdated please let us know. Thank you!