Teenage Driver License: Driver's Education & Training

The State of California and the DMV require that anyone under 18 who wants a Driver's License must take a special training course, which is taught in two parts. The first part is Driver's Education, learning the laws and techniques that are necessary for safe driving. American Driving School offers Driver's Education in a convenient, DMV-approved online program for home-study. The second DMV requirement is for Behind-the-Wheel Driver Training, which includes a minimum of six hours actually driving with a professional driving instructor, taught in three 2-hour lessons.

This specialized course can only be offered by DMV-licensed Driving Schools or secondary schools which have a qualified curriculum and certified teachers.


Driver's Education is available for Students to study at home online in their free time. We recognize that many families have very busy schedules and that some people learn best one-on-one in a web-based format. American Driving School offers a DMV-approved program that is thorough, interactive, and is photographed in Southern California. Not all online Driver's Education is the same; we have selected this Program because it includes good video and diagrams and complete information. It's easy to start; just contact our Office to enroll over the phone and get simple instructions to begin online. This internet Program allows you to start and stop at any time, pick up right where you left off, and has several quizzes along the way to test knowledge. When the final segment is finished, you will receive an email confirmation from the School. Then we mail you a DMV Certificate of Completion to obtain a Learner's Permit, and we seamlessly take you through the process to start the Behind-the-Wheel training.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Many of the companies advertising online Driver's Ed are not complete Driving Schools that include Behind-the-Wheel training. You will only receive a Certificate for Driver's Education, leaving you on your own to find a full-service Driving School and enroll in Behind-the-Wheel Drivers Training, which is required to get a license. You will likely have a lower cost and definitely a better experience by using one Driving School for your complete process of obtaining a driver's license. American Driving School offers a 10% discount to Students who enroll and pay in advance for the full driving program.


Several steps are involved in getting a Learner's Permit, and American Driving School keeps it simple every step of the way.  This is a quick summary:

  1. Enroll in Drivers Education such as our online program, as described above.  You may enroll in Driver's Education as early as age 15 but we don't recommend it before 15 years and 4 months.  When finished, a DMV Certificate of Completion of Driver's Education is issued.
  2. When a Student is at least 15 ½ and has the DMV Certificate, they may take the 46-question written test at any DMV.  Proof of identification and vision tests are required, and a photograph and thumb print will be taken at this time.  Students get 3 chances to pass the written test, with a minimum 1-week period between attempts.
  3. Successfully passing the written test and paying a DMV fee provides the Student with an Instruction (Learner's) Permit, which is valid for 1 year. 
  4. The Instruction Permit must be validated by a licensed Instructor after the first 2-hour driving lesson.  DRIVING IS NOT PERMITTED (except with an Instructor) UNTIL THE FIRST BEHIND-THE-WHEEL LESSON IS COMPLETED.
  5. After the Instruction Permit is validated, the Student may drive with any California-licensed driver over age 25 who is in the front passenger seat and alert.

Once the Student has completed Driver's Education, now it's time to go to DMV and apply for a Learner's Permit, either walking in or making an appointment in advance. Walking in without an appointment may take an hour and a half or more. A scheduled appointment may take 30 minutes to one hour.

Before leaving for the DMV appointment make sure that you take five items with you.

  1. A DMV application form signed by your parents or guardian.
  2. Your birth certificate or passport proving that you are at least 15 ½ years old.
  3. Your social security number.
  4. Cash or check for $31.
  5. Your driving school Certificate of Completion of Driver's Education.

The DMV requires all applicants to take two tests for their Learner's Permit. The first test is a 46 question, multiple-choice quiz to find out whether the applicant is knowledgeable about driving laws. You can miss up to 8 questions and still pass. The second test is a 2-part vision test designed to find out if the applicant's vision both in daylight and darkness is adequate to drive a vehicle. If you wear contact lenses or glasses for long-distance vision, be sure to wear your contact lenses or take your glasses with you.

Once both of these tests have been passed, a Learner's Permit will be issued. THE PERMIT IS NOT VALID UNTIL THE FIRST DRIVING LESSON IS COMPLETED. After obtaining the Learner's Permit, call the School and schedule your first 2-hour lesson with a licensed driving instructor. We offer free pick-up at home or school , and lesson appointments are available on weekends and evenings for your convenience. At the end of the first Behind-the-Wheel lesson, the Instructor will sign your Permit, making it valid and legal. Now you may drive with anyone 25 years of age or older with a valid California driver's license. When operating any vehicle it must be properly insured. The supervising person is required to be in the front seat of the vehicle, sober and alert, and able to take control of the vehicle in an emergency.

The law requires that all drivers under the age of 18 receive a minimum of 50 hours of practice time during the 6-month Permit period. This is in addition to 6 hours of professional instruction by a licensed Driving School. The 50 hours of instruction is must include at least 10 hours of night-time practice. The DMV Parent-Teen Guide, provided by American Driving School, offers recommendations for this practice time. Driving time should be logged on a calendar so parents or guardians can keep track of their teenager's experience. We suggest using a log in the back of the DMV Parent-Teen Training Guide, which we provide to all of our Students. This is an easy way to add up the daytime and night-time hours on a weekly and monthly basis. Parents or guardians must sign the Learner's Permit certifying that the 50 hours have been completed. NOTE: Some states require twice as much practice time as California. Many parents provide their teenager with over 100 hours of practice before they allow their teenager to apply for a driver's license.


The State of California requires that a student under the age of 18 receive a minimum of 6 hours of Behind-the-Wheel training from a DMV-licensed Driving School. These lessons are normally provided in 2-hour increments. American Driving School has a specific curriculum for each lesson that goes far beyond what is in the DMV test. We include basic fundamentals of driving: Techniques for turning, backing, lane changes, residential and city intersections, managing traffic, parallel and hill parking, u-turns, developing safe vision habits and space management skills. Over our 25 years, we have developed our own step-by-step techniques and memory patterns to make safe driving a natural habit. Beyond the basics, we also help new drivers to develop defensive driving skills, freeway vision techniques and strategies, smooth steering on winding roads, stable speed in heavy traffic, and a fuel-efficient driving style. All of our Students also learn how to perform a quick safety inspection of a vehicle.

Since driving at night requires some different skills, we recommend that at least 1 hour of the 6 hours Behind-the-Wheel with a professional driving instructor is scheduled so it falls after dark. This allows the student to learn how and why to adjust their high and low beam headlights when following traffic, facing headlights of oncoming vehicles, adjusting the rear view mirror and driving on curves and hills. To arrange a night lesson is sometimes difficult, particularly during Daylight Savings Time, but it is helpful to new drivers when it is possible.

Additional driving lessons beyond the minimum 6 hours required by the DMV are available. Different people learn at different rates, and safe driving requires complex skills. Parents are in a good position to judge whether their teenager is truly ready after 6 months of practice, and the Driving Instructor also provides feedback after the third lesson. Requested extra lessons will have specific objectives to work on any skills that require more experience.

After a minimum 6 hours of instruction are finished, a DMV Certificate of Completion of Behind-the-Wheel Training will be issued. (NOTE: New drivers over 17 ½ may obtain an Instruction Permit without taking Drivers Education or Drivers Training but must use that permit for at least 6 months and may not get a drivers license before age 18).

The next step is the BIG one:  Time to get the California Driver's License!  Here's how:

  1. The Student may take the DMV Driving Test for a Drivers License after their 16th birthday, after having their Instruction Permit for at least 6 months, and after the Certificate of Completion of Behind-the-Wheel training has been issued. 
  2. An appointment is required for the Driving Test and may be made by phone or online.  Call 800.777.0133 or log onto www.dmv.ca.gov and click on “Appointments.”  The Student must be within 30 days of eligibility for a Driver's License (defined as 6 months since the Permit was issued and age 16) before making an appointment, and DMV schedules appointments no longer than 30 days in advance.  Appointments may be full for several weeks ahead.  Call or click after 8am on DMV work-days.
  3. The Student has 3 chances to pass the Driving Test, waiting a minimum of 2 weeks between attempts.  Just in case, don't wait until your Permit is about to expire!
  4. After successfully passing the Driving Test, a Provisional Drivers License will be issued to new drivers under age 18.  This license restricts drivers from being on the road from 11pm-5am and from having passengers under age 20 (except for family members) unless there is a licensed driver over 25 in the front passenger seat.  The Provisional status is released after one year or when the Student turns 18.

May this be the beginning of many years of safe, confident driving.


Not all Driving Schools provide the same quality of instruction. American Driving School has a more than 25-year history of high standards and is well-respected in the San Diego area because we have a strong commitment to the safety of our Students. We are proud that most of our new Students were referred by someone who already had a great experience with us. Some Schools may charge less for a 6-hour driver training course because they don't offer the same quality. They may put several Students in the car at the same time, saving the School some money, but a 2-hour lesson that gives each Student only 40 minutes of actual time behind-the-wheel is a poor value. All of our lessons are private, devoting the entire time to each Student. Some Schools don't provide much freeway driving experience (which uses extra fuel and miles), leaving Students unprepared or relying on their parents for all freeway learning. We focus most of an entire lesson to the freeway, emphasizing vision strategies, safe lane changes and speed modulation. Some schools charge extra to teach during evenings or weekends. American Driving School works around YOUR schedule, and we will pick up at home, school or work and drop off in a different location for maximum convenience. Our School provides instructors who are highly trained in techniques and communication and always demonstrate professionalism. Other Schools have different standards, with instructors who talk on their cell phones during lessons or offer little feedback to Students or parents. While all driving schools are licensed by the DMV, they are definitely not equal when you consider the quality of instruction and the safety of a new driver.


Parents have an important role in developing their teenager's driving skills. We realize that some parents may be nervous or other issues may get in the way. For the best learning experience, after the first driving lesson we provide a glovebox-sized Driving Practice Checklist to help parents be consistent with skills taught by the Instructor. We also provide the DMV Parent-Teen Training Guide full of good ideas. Our Instructors welcome parents or guardians to ride along during the first lesson to better understand how the Driving Instructor is teaching and the techniques and terminology we use. We look at parents and Instructors as a team devoted to developing safe driving habits for their teenagers. Let's get started!

For questions please see our most frequently asked questions.

American Driving School, 760.736.8288,
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