Texas Graduated Driver License Program (GDL) is a step-by-step program for teenagers to gradually build up driving experience before they can get a full and unrestricted driver license.
The purpose of the Texas Graduated Driver License Law is to cut the number of injuries and fatalities caused by teen drivers on Texas roads.
Graduated Driver License Program Saves Lives
Texas introduced the Graduated Driver License Program in 2002. Even if crash statistics among young drivers between 16 and 20 years remain high, The Texas Graduated Driver License Program save lives among new drivers and their passengers.
The program is generally accepted and supported by both teenagers and parents. Ensuring that parents and teens fully understand the responsibilities associated with safe driving is the single most effective tool for reducing teen driver crashes, injuries and deaths.
The different steps in the GDL program help young drivers to improve their driving skills over time and restrictions help minimizing risky driving situations.
According to Texas DPS, the laws don’t exist to make the process difficult. Lawmakers have designed the laws to educate you about the rules of the road and help you practice safe driving habits before being allowed to graduate to the next step.
Learner License – Age Requirement
The Learner License (or Learner Permit) is the first step in the GDL program. You can enter this level of the program when you are 15 years old.
Learner License – Driver Education
All applicants under 25 years must complete a driver education course.
You have these options:
- Enroll in a driver education school
- Enroll in a parent taught driver education course with an approved parent taught course provider
- Complete driver education at a public school, education service center, college, or university
The classroom phase of the driver education course is at least 32 hours (which much stretch over at least 16 days). The course must also contain at least 7 hours of behind-the-wheel driving and 7 hours of in-car observation.
Before DPS issues a learner license, you must complete the first six hours of the driver education classroom instruction (concurrent method) or all 32 hours (block method). You must make sure you have a certificate of completion (DE-964) when applying for your learner license.
Learner License – School Enrollment and Attendance
Texas DPS also wants proof of school enrollment and attendance (VOE form) or a high school diploma before they issue a license to anyone under 18 years.
One of the following must apply to you:
- Obtained a high school diploma or its equivalent.
- Are a student enrolled in a public, private, or home school and attended school for at least 90% of the time in the fall or spring semester preceding the date of application.
- Are currently enrolled in a program to prepare you to pass the high school equivalency exam. You must have been enrolled for the previous 45 days from the date of applying for your learner license.
- If you are applying during the summer and are still enrolled in school, your last report card for the most recent school year is acceptable provided it has your name, a list of absences, and a complete listing of grades.
Learner License – Written Knowledge Test
Before DPS issues a Learner License, you must pass a knowledge test about Texas laws and common road signs and signals.
Normally, you can take this test as part of your driver education course. If you pass the test during your course, you don’t have to take any other knowledge test for your learner license.
You can also visit your local DPS office to take the test.
It is important that you prepare well for the knowledge test. Take several practice tests and make sure you fully understand the answers.
At Driver’s Prep, you have more than 1,000 questions to work with! On the real test, you need 21 correct answers to pass (70%). On practice tests you should aim for a full score.
Learner License – Practice Driving
Once you have your learner license you may practice driving with a licensed adult who is 21 years or older. The supervising adult must sit beside you in the front passenger seat when you drive.
Before you can move on to the next phase of the Texas Graduated Driver License Program you must complete:
- 7 hours of behind-the-wheel driving (part of your driver education).
- 7 hours of in-car observation (part of your driver education).
- 30 hours of practice driving (including 10 hours night driving).
You must hold your learner license for at least full six months (unless you turn 18 before that).
If DPS suspend your license during this phase, the six-month period increases by the number of days of the suspension.
Complete the Impact Texas Teen Driver Course
Completing the Impact Texas Teen Driver Course (ITTD) is the last requirement before you take the driving test.
Take this course after you have completed the driver education and all driving practice. You must finish the course no more than 90 days before the behind-the-wheel test.
ITTD is a video course that explains the dangers of distracted driving along with real life stories of teens that have lost their life from distracted driving. [ Read more: Texas Teen Drivers Must Complete ITTD Program | TXDPS Impact Texas Teen Driver Course ]
The Behind-the-Wheel Test
You can probably schedule your driving skills test online. If not, you must visit a driver license office in person.
You must bring your learner license, proof of driver education (under 25 years), Verification of Enrollment (VOE) form, high school diploma or GED (under 18 years), and proof of current liability insurance for your vehicle. Your vehicle must also be registered, have two license plates, and meet certain safety requirements. For a complete list of requirements visit TXDPS.
The examiner will not allow passengers or pets in the car during the driving test.
Is the Texas Driving Skills Test Hard?
Texas has three standalone in-vehicle driving tests: the on-street test, the backing test, and parallel parking test. If you make dangerous or illegal maneuver, the examiner will immediately stop the test.
The test usually takes about 20 minutes and you will drive on streets close to the DPS office. It is a good idea to make yourself familiar with the area before the test.
The examiner will pay special attention to how you approach intersections and how you stop the vehicle in common traffic conditions. He or she will make sure that you always check traffic around you and that you are able to control the vehicle. You must main a safe position in your lane and behind other vehicles. Always use your turn signals when changing position. Read more here: How to Prepare for a Driving Test.
You should also make sure you can back in a straight line while looking behind and around you. Practice parallel parking as much as you can. Passing these two objectives is always a good start.
Texas DPS doesn’t show official passing rates, but it is generally recognized that more than two-thirds of all first-time test takers pass.
Should you fail the test, you can take it again within 90 days. If you wait more than 90 days or fail 3 times, you must apply and pay the fee again.
The Provisional License
The last phase of the Texas Graduated Driver License is the Provisional License.
If you are between 16 and 17 years, Texas DPS issues a driver’s license with certain restrictions:
- Not carry more than one passenger under 21 years who is not a family member
- No driving between midnight and 5:00 a.m. (exceptions for work, school-related activities, and medical emergencies).
- No use of wireless communications devices (including a hands-free device.
DPS lifts the restrictions from your driving privilege when you turn 18. They will replace your provisional license with a full driver license for drivers under 21 years of age. Remember that you must visit your DPS office within 30 days of your 18th birthday to make the change.
If you are under 21 years, the zero-tolerance law applies. If you are stopped while driving on a public street and ANY detectable amount of alcohol is in your system, it is a criminal offense (Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol by a Minor).
After you turn 21, DPS issues a regular driver license.