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District of Columbia Graduated Licensing Program

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What You Need to Know about the GRAD Program

If you are under 21 years and apply for your first learner permit, you will follow the D.C. Graduated Licensing Program, known as D.C. GRAD or GDL
The program is designed to let novice drivers safely gain gradual driving experience before obtaining full driving privileges. It has three steps for all young new drivers:

    Step I: Learner Permit
    Step II: Provisional License
    Step III: Full Driver License

Photo by Stefan Stefancik from Pexels

Before You Can Get a Permit

Before DMV issues the permit, you must pass a vision test and the 30-question GRAD knowledge test. This test is different from the test that DMV gives to applicants 21 years or older. It has additional questions about the GRAD program.

After passing the knowledge test, DMV gives you a temporary permit on paper. This temporary permit is valid for 45 days, but you will receive the real learner’s permit in the mail after just a few days.

When You Have Your First Learner Permit

With your first D.C. Learner Permit, you can start practicing your driving skills.

Remember, under no circumstances can you drive alone. You must always be supervised by a driver who is 21 years or older, has a valid full driver license, and sits beside you in the passenger front seat.

You must always carry the permit with you when you are driving. You must also make sure that everyone in the vehicle is buckled up.

When you hold a D.C. Learner Permit, you cannot:

    Drive with other passengers than your supervising driver
    Use a cell phone while driving
    Drive between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
    Drive a vehicle for compensation

The learner permit is valid for two years and is non-renewable.

If you let your permit expire without applying for a license, you must start over with a new application and take all tests again.

D.C. Provisional License

A provisional driver license is the second step in the GRAD program.

To get a provisional driver license you must:

    Be at least 16 years and 6 months old
    Had a learner permit for at least 6 months
    Have no moving violation points on your driving record
    Have logged 40 hours of driving experience
    Pass a road skills test

The provisional license is valid for one year and can be renewed.

With the provisional license you can drive alone, but there are still some restrictions you must follow. Just like before, you must always carry the license with you when you are driving. You must also make sure that everyone in the vehicle is buckled up and you cannot drive a vehicle for compensation.

There is also a passenger restriction that lets you drive only with a person who is your sibling, child, parent, or one person who meets the criteria of a supervising driver (see the law at the bottom of this page).

You are also restricted to daytime driving as follows:

  • September – June:
    Monday – Thursday, 6:01 a.m. – 10:59 p.m.,
    Friday – Sunday, 6:01 a.m. – 11:59 p.m.
  • July and August:
    Everyday, 6:01 a.m. – 11:59 p.m.

Exceptions exist if you are driving to or from work, a school-sponsored activity, religious or an athletic event, or related training session in which you are a participant, sponsored by the District of Columbia, a civic organization, or another similar entity that takes responsibility, or if accompanied by the holder of a valid driver license who is 21 year or older.

D.C. Full Driver License

If you are under 18 years night curfew and passenger restrictions still apply during this phase (17 to 18 years).

The restrictions are lifted when you turn 18 years.

When you turn 21 years old, you are released from the GRAD license program, regardless of your type of license or permit. If have a learner permit, you may immediately schedule a road test appointment. You do not need to provide a driving certification form or wait until you have had the permit for 6 months. If have a provisional license, you may immediately visit a DMV service center location to get a regular driver license.

Check Your Knowledge

See if you can answer these 4 random questions about the GRAD program. You may be asked similar questions on your D,C. permit examination.

Results

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#1. In addition to any sibling, child or parent, a holder of a provisional license can drive with how many passengers?

You can drive with one (1) passenger that is the holder of a valid full driver license who is 21 years of age or older, occupying the front passenger seat next to you and is wearing a seat belt, and any other passenger who is your sibling, child, or parent.

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#2. Who does the Gradual Rearing of Adult Drivers (GRAD) Program affect?

If you are under the age of 21, you must operate under the Gradual Rearing of Adult Drivers (GRAD) Program. The GRAD program permits novice drivers (16-21 years of age) to safely gain driving experience before obtaining full driving privileges.

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#3. Before graduating to full license with conditions stage under GRAD, you must be free of any pointable traffic violations for at least:

You must be violation free for 12 consecutive months before graduating to the full license with conditions stage.

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#4. When driving with a learner's permit you must be accompanied by and under the instruction of a driver who is:

You cannot drive alone. You must be accompanied by and under the instruction of a driver who is 21 years or older, has a valid full driver license, and is seated next to you in the passenger front seat.

See your result

You can find a full 25-question test here: Free DMV Practice Test for District of Columbia


D.C. Provisional License § 50–1401.01.

No holder of a provisional permit shall:

(i) Operate a motor vehicle occupied by any passengers other than one holder of a valid motor vehicle operator’s permit who is 21 years of age or older, occupying the seat beside the permittee, and wearing a seat belt, and any other passenger who is a sibling or parent of the permittee; or

(ii) Operate a motor vehicle between 11:00 p.m. on any Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday until 6:00 a.m. on the following day during any month except July or August, and from 12:01 a.m. until 6:00 a.m. during July and August and on any Saturday or Sunday the rest of the year, unless driving to or from employment, a school-sponsored activity, religious or an athletic event or related training session in which the permittee is a participant, sponsored by the District of Columbia, a civic organization, or another similar entity that takes responsibility for the minor, or unless accompanied by the holder of a valid motor vehicle operator’s permit who is 21 years of age or older, wearing a seat belt, and occupying a seat beside the permittee.

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