Graduated Driver License (GDL) and teen driving requirements FAQs

What is a graduated driver license (GDL)?

​A ​graduated driver license (GDL) has passenger and hour restrictions to reduce risk. GDL helps keep novice drivers (ages 15 1/2 to age 18) out of high-risk driving situations, such as driving at night or with multiple peer passengers, while giving them the opportunity to gain experience and develop their driving skills in lower-risk situations.

At what age may I get my instruction permit​ (temps)?

You are eligible for an instruction permit when you are 15 years and 6 months old or older.

What is required to get an instruction permit?

  • Complete an application for a license MV3001,
  • Present proof of:
  • Pass the signs, knowledge test and vision screening
  • If you are under 18 years old,
    • You must be enrolled in, or have completed, driver education.
    • You must also be enrolled in a school program or high school equivalency program, have graduated from high school or been granted a declaration of high school graduation equivalency, or be enrolled in a home-based private education program and cannot be identified as habitually truant.
    • You must have an adult sponsor and pay the required driver licensing fee.

Where can I get an instruction permit?

Get your instruction permit at any DMV customer service center.

What are the restrictions on an instruction permit?

You must be accompanied by someone occupying the seat beside you who has at least two years licensed driving experience, presently holds a valid regular (non-probationary) license and is one of the following:

  • a qualified instructor age 19 or older, or
  • a parent, guardian or spouse, age 19 or older. In addition to the parent, guardian, or spouse, a member of your immediate family may occupy seats in the vehicle other than the front seat, or
  • a person other than a parent, legal guardian, or spouse who is age 21 or older. No other passengers are allowed. If you are under 18 years old, the licensed person accompanying you is required to have written authorization from your parent or legal guardian prior to the operation of the vehicle.

Note: If you will be operating a vehicle during hours of darkness, you must be accompanied by a qualified instructor or a licensed person at least 25 years of age who has at least two years of licensed driving experience occupying the seat beside you.

How long will my instruction permit be valid?

Your instruction permit will be valid for 12 months but can be renewed for another year if you need additional time to practice or complete the requirements to get a probationary license. You need proof of enrollment or completion of a driver education course to renew your instruction permit.

How long before I can I get my probationary driver license?

You must hold your instruction permit for at least six (6) months violation free prior to applying for your probationary license.

What do I need to do to get my probationary license?

  • Hold the instruction permit for a minimum of six months before applying for a probationary license
  • Be violation free in the six months prior to applying for the probationary license
  • Accumulate a minimum of 30 hours of behind-the-wheel driving experience, 10 of which must be driving experience at night. For convenience, use the Road Ready Mobile App or print off a driving log sheet to track your hours of supervised driving.
  • Present proof of completion of an approved driver-education training course
  • Have your parent or adult sponsor certify on the driver application the completion of 30 hours of driving experience (10 at night)
  • Pass a road test unless eligible for the road test waiver
  • Pay required fees

What are the GDL restrictions for drivers under age 18 with a probationary license?

From 5 a.m. to midnight, you can drive alone and go anywhere. Any number of immediate family members can ride along as well as the following people:

  • One person who holds a valid, regular license with at least two years of licensed driving experience and who is:
    • a qualified instructor or spouse 19 or older, or
    • a person 21 or older
  • One other person
​​From midnight to 5 a.m., you can drive alone only IF driving between home, school and/or work. The same people listed immediately above can ride along, too.

If driving anywhere else, one of the following people must be seated in the front passenger seat:
  • A parent or legal guardian
  • One person with a valid, regular license with two years of licensed driving experience and who is:
    • a qualified instructor or spouse 19 or older, or
    • a person 21 or older.
  • In addition, any number of the driver’s immediate family members and one other person may ride along.

After nine months of violation-free driving, GDL restrictions are lifted.

What training materials are available?

  • Parent’s Supervised Driving Program (PSDP). DMV has partnered with the Safe Roads Alliance to provide one printed copy of the PSDP Guide to each teen driver issued an original instruction permit. The PSDP Guide offers step-by-step lessons that parents can use during the supervised driving period.
  • Wisconsin Motorists’ Handbook, available as a PDF and eBook, is an excellent source of information about rules of the road and how to drive safely.

How do I keep track of my supervised driving hours?

Download a free mobile app or printable driving log to track your supervised driving time.

What happens if I violate the GDL restrictions?

Restrictions will be extended six months if:

  • You are convicted of a moving traffic violation, or
  • You violate any of the restrictions, or
  • Your license is suspended or revoked for any reason

Demerit points double on 2nd and subsequent convictions for moving violations when the driver, regardless of age, has an instruction permit, probationary license or no license at all. Points do not double for vehicle equipment violations under Wisconsin Statute 347​.

Your driving privilege will be suspended for six months if you accumulate from 12 to 30 demerit points within any 12 month period. Suspension is for one years if total point accumulation is more than 30 points within 12 months.

DMV will cancel a license if a driver under age 18 was issued their original probationary license but later it's learned that the driver was convicted of a violation committed in the six months prior to issuance. The driver must be 6 months violation free to reapply for the license.

If I have a probationary license, how many of my friends can ride with me during daylight hours?

During the first nine months you have your probationary license, or until you turn 18, only one of your peers can ride with you from 5 a.m. until midnight. However, any number of your family members can ride with you as can your spouse, a qualified instructor or someone over 21 with a valid regular license and two years of licensed driving experience.

Can I drive alone and go wherever I want to go?

Yes, from 5 a.m. until midnight, you can drive alone and go anywhere you want.

Can I drive alone or go wherever I want between midnight and 5 a.m.?

During the first nine months you have your probationary license, or until you turn 18, if you are driving between home, school and/or work, you may drive alone. If you are driving anywhere else, you must have one of the following persons with you:

  • A parent or legal guardian
  • A person who holds a valid regular license with two years licensed drive experience who is either a qualified instructor, a spouse age 19 or older or a person age 21 or older.

Who can ride with me at night?

From midnight to 5 a.m., unless you are driving between your home, school or work, your parent/legal guardian or other qualified licensed person must be with you. You can then also have any of your immediate family members, or one other person with you.

What are the driver education requirements?

Driver education requirements include a minimum of 30 hours of classroom time, a minimum of six hours of behind-the-wheel driver education training and six hours of observation time. Some driver education programs include additional hours.

Where can I take driver education?

Driver education is offered through private driver training schools ​and some high schools.

At what age does the driver education requirement no longer apply?

Once you turn 18, you may take tests and apply for a driver license without being enrolled in a driver education program.

If I complete driver education in another state and I have a certificate of completion from that state, will Wisconsin accept that certificate?

Yes. You can use your certificate of completion from another state as long as the course consisted of both classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction. You must still be at least 15 years and 6 months old to apply for your license in Wisconsin.

How old do I have to be before GDL doesn't apply to me?

GDL hours and passenger restrictions no longer apply once you turn 18. However, you will still be operating under a probationary license so points assessed for traffic convictions will double for every violation after your first.

When did GDL take effect?

Graduated Driver License (GDL) laws took effect September 1, 2000.

For more information:

Driver Information Section
P.O. Box 7983
Madison, WI 53707-7983

Email Wisconsin DMV email service​​​
Phone (608) 264-7447
Fax (608) 267-3812