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Graduated Driver License Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1

What is the Graduated Driver License Law?

Answer: The graduated licensing system places certain restrictions on teens under the age of 18 who have learner permits and driver licenses.

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Question 2

When did the Graduated Driver License Law take effect?

Answer: The Graduated Driver License (GDL) Law went into effect on July 1, 2001. Applicants who are 18 or older and teens who have graduated from high school are not affected by the GDL law.

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Question 3

How do you apply for a learner permit or intermediate license under the GDL law?

Answer: You may apply for a learner permit or intermediate license at any full-service Driver Services Center by providing the proper documentation and forms, listed below. To obtain a learner permit, one must pass a written exam and an eye exam. Our online services include practice learner permit tests. To obtain an intermediate license, one must pass a road test. You may schedule a road test appointment through our online services.

A major feature of the GDL law includes the requirement that applicants applying for an intermediate license must present certification that the intermediate license applicant has a minimum of 50 hours of behind-the-wheel driving experience, including a minimum of 10 hours of driving at night. This certification must be signed by the minor applicant's parent, legal guardian, or certified license instructor confirming this experience.

To apply for a Learner Permit or Graduated Driver License you will need to bring:

Additional Requirements

To obtain a Tennessee Driver License for the first time when an applicant is under the age of 18, proof of prior driving experience is required. The applicant must either:

  1. Obtain and hold a learner permit for at least six (6) months (180 days)
  2. Have been licensed to drive in another state for at least 90 days.
  3. Applicants not yet eighteen years old must have an adult sign a Minor/Teen-age Affidavit and Cancellation form, which can be picked up at any driver license station or downloaded in Adobe PDF format.

If applicant is under the age of 18 and holds a learner permit from another state

The applicant may apply for a Tennessee Intermediate Restricted Driver License if the applicant is at least 16 years old and has held their out of state permit for at least six (6) months (180 days). The applicant will need to bring, along with the documents listed above, an official Motor Vehicle Record from the state issuing the learner permit. This certified driving record must show no violations or accidents on the record. Contact the state issuing the learner permit for instructions on how to obtain a Motor Vehicle Record. The Motor Vehicle Record must have been issued less than 30 days before the road test is taken. Please schedule your road test several weeks in advance to make sure you meet all deadlines.

In addition to the Motor Vehicle Record from the issuing state, an applicant holding a learner permit from another state must show proof of school attendance/ progress. This document may be obtained from the student's school office. If the applicant is enrolled in school outside of Tennessee (or in an approved private or church school in Tennessee without access to the SF1010 forms), the applicant must provide a statement from the school principal or headmaster on official school letterhead specifically confirming that the applicant is not truant and is making satisfactory progress in their school. Any proof of attendance/progress is valid for 30 days, unless issued during the month of May, which will then be valid throughout the summer and for the first 30 days of the new school year.

For more detailed information, read Chapter 3 of the Tennessee Driver License Handbook.

Download the Graduated Driver License 50 Hour Certificate

The process to apply for a learner permit or intermediate license under the GDL procedures now requires an additional $5 fee for each application. The tests, other required documentation and other fees remain the same.

More information regarding the Graduated Driver License

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Question 4

What are the restrictions for drivers with a learner permit?

Answer: Anyone under the age of 18 who has a learner permit will be prohibited from driving between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. When driving, permit holders must have a licensed driver age 21 or older in the vehicle with them. Seatbelt use is mandatory for everyone in the vehicle under the age of 18 (passengers age 3 and under must be in an approved child restraint device).

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Question 5

How long must I have a learner permit before applying for an intermediate license?

Answer: Under the GDL law, anyone under the age of 18 must have their Tennessee learner permit for a minimum of 180 days (approximately six months) before they can apply for an intermediate restricted license. The minimum age for applying for an intermediate license is 16. BOTH of these requirements must be met before a minor can qualify for an Intermediate license. For example, even if the teen has already held their permit for 180 days but has not yet turned age sixteen, they cannot get an Intermediate license yet. Similarly, just because a teen is already age sixteen, if they have not held a learner permit for 180 days, they will not qualify to get an Intermediate license until both qualifications are met.

If someone with a Tennessee learner permit gets 6 or more points on their driving record during the 180 days before applying for the intermediate restricted license, they have to continue to hold the Tennessee learner permit until their record has been clear for 180 days.

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Question 6

What are the restrictions for drivers with an intermediate restricted license?

Answer: Seatbelt use is mandatory for all vehicle occupants (passengers age 8 and under must be in an approved child restraint device as outlined in Tennessee's New Child Restraint Law).

Those with an intermediate restricted license can only have one other passenger in the vehicle, UNLESS:

  • One or more of the passengers is age 21 or older and has a valid, unrestricted license;
  • The passengers are brothers and sisters, step-brothers or step-sisters, adopted or fostered children residing in the same house as the driver and going to and from school AND the intermediate license holder has in their possession written permission from their parent or guardian to transport their siblings.

Those with an intermediate restricted license are prohibited from driving between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., UNLESS:

  • They are accompanied by a parent or guardian;
  • They are accompanied by a licensed driver 21 or older who has been designated by the parent or guardian. This designation must be in writing and be in the possession of the teen driver;
  • They are driving to or from a specifically identified school sponsored activity or event and have in their possession written permission from a parent or guardian to do this;
  • They are driving to or from work and have in their possession written permission from a parent or guardian identifying the place of employment and authorizing the driver to go to and from work;
  • They are driving to or from hunting or fishing between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. and have in their possession a valid hunting or fishing license.

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Question 7

What would happen to an Intermediate Restricted License holder who is caught with a forged or fake letter?

Answer: A driver with an Intermediate Restricted License who is convicted of having a forged or fraudulent letter or statement will have their intermediate restricted license revoked and will be reissued a learner permit until they reach the age of 18.

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Question 8

What will my Intermediate License look like?

Answer: An Intermediate License will be similar to regular licenses but will have the word "Intermediate" displayed prominently across the license. You may view these licenses at the following links:

Graduated Driver License Examples

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Question 9

How long do I have to keep an Intermediate Restricted License?

Answer: Teens must hold their Intermediate Restricted License for a minimum of one year. After one year, they can apply for an Intermediate Unrestricted License. There is a $2 application fee. Teens need to apply in person at any of the Driver Service Center Locations. The word "Intermediate" will still be on the license, but the restrictions will be lifted.

However, if a teen driver has received six or more points (equivalent of two minor traffic citations) on their intermediate restricted license; contributes to a traffic crash; or is convicted of a second seatbelt violation, they will have to wait an additional 90 days to apply for an intermediate unrestricted license.

Also, if the teen driver gets a second moving violation while holding the Intermediate Restricted Driver License, he or she will need to complete an approved Driver Education class before being allowed to get an Intermediate Unrestricted Driver License.

At age 18, a driver could apply for a regular unrestricted license without the word "Intermediate" printed on it. There will be an $8 duplicate fee unless the driver chooses to keep the license with the word "Intermediate" on it until that license is at the end of its five-year renewal cycle.

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Question 10

I'm under the age of 18 and a foreign national, can I get a learner permit?

Answer: You will need to apply for a Temporary Driver License. All restrictions and requirements under the Graduated Driver License program will apply to the Temporary Driver License Permit.

The Tennessee Department of Safety began issuing a “Temporary Driver License” (TDL) on October 1, 2007 to foreign nationals residing in Tennessee whose legal, temporary presence has been authorized by the federal government. 

The license is designated as “Temporary” because the expiration date will be the same as the expiration date of the foreign national’s authorized stay in the United States. The Temporary Driver License is valid for the same period of the applicant’s authorized stay in the U.S but no longer than 5 years, and if not defined, for one year.

For more information on a Temporary Driver License Permit visit the TDL FAQs page.

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Question 11

I'm a minor. Can I get a Certificate for Driving Learner's Permit?

Answer: No. After October 1, 2007 the Certificate for Driving (CFD) will no longer be issued to new applicants. Those holding an expired or expiring certificate will not be able to have it renewed. For more information, go to Tennessee Certificate for Driving (Class TD).

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Question 12

Are there any teens who are not affected by the Graduated Driver License law?

Answer: The new law will not apply to anyone age 18 and older OR anyone under the age of 18 who has graduated high school.

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