Easy Does It!

Minnesota and most, if not all, other states have implemented a system for easing young drivers in to the driving environment. In Minnesota it is called Graduated Driver’s Licensing, or GDL for short.

In the GDL system drivers are slowly introduced to the driving environment in a way that helps them develop safe driving skills gradually as they gain experience. This system has three steps.

Step One of the GDL System

The Instruction Permit

Earning your instruction permit is the first step to the GDL system. Young drivers are not allowed to jump into a car and start practicing on public roads without first accomplishing a couple of things.

First of all they need to complete 30 hours of classroom education with a licensed driver’s education program. The program must be provided as in person instruction, online courses are not recognized as valid classroom instruction in Minnesota. During the pandemic they have made an exception for remote learning, this is different from online courses. Remote learning is live, in-person instruction by video feed. Having conducted many remote learning courses, I can tell you for the vast majority of students this is not the best option. Nothing compares to live, in-person instruction. Effective December 31st, 2021 the remote learning option will no longer be recognized as valid in-person instruction in Minnesota. All courses after that must be in-classroom learning.

Valid driver’s education programs in Minnesota must have their lesson plans approved by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Strict curriculum guidelines must be met in order for the course to be given approval. They include but are not limited to . . .

  • 30 hours minimum attendance.
  • Instruction must be provided in person.
  • Instruction must be provided by licensed driver’s education instructors.
  • Curriculum must include, but is not limited to, more than 30 specific topics listed in the Minnesota Rules publication for driver’s education programs .
  • Student progress must be evaluated thru-out the program.

After successful completion of the classroom education the student must pass a written knowledge test, pass an eye screening, have their photograph taken, complete an application and pay the associated fees before their permit will be issued to them. The written knowledge test can be taken at Department of Motor vehicle offices where the test is administered. They may also take the written test with an approved third party provider that is approved by the Department of Pubic Safety. The test is 40 questions long and contains multiple choice and true and false questions.

The student must be at least 15 years of age to take the written permit test. Once they pass, the student must complete 6 hours of behind the wheel instruction with a licensed driver’s education instructor and complete 50 hours of supervised driving with a supervising driver who is at least 21 years of age or older. (Typically the parents)

Step Two of the GDL System

The Provisional License

This license is valid for two years from the application date and has restrictions that do not apply to a full class D driver’s license. To qualify for the provisional license the teen driver must be at least 16 years of age, completed the classroom and behind the wheel phases of driver’s education, completed and logged their 50 hours of supervised driving and held their instruction permit for at least 6 months. Click here to download the Minnesota Supervised Driver’s Log.

When a student is ready they can schedule the road test, which must be administered by the Department of Public Safety / Department of Motor Vehicles. Once they pass the road test they will be issued their Provisional License.

The restrictions associated with the provisional license are:

  • Nighttime restrictions. The provisional driver may not drive between the hours of midnight and 5am. Some exceptions are permissible to allow them to travel to and from work and other specific circumstances. Please review page 10 of the Minnesota Driver’s Manual for specific details.
  • Cell phone use by teen drivers. Person’s under the age of 18 with an instruction permit or provisional license may not use a cell phone for anything, an exception is allowed for dialing 911 in an emergency. This rule applies to hands-free as well hands-on operation of the cell phone.
  • Passenger restrictions.
    During the first 6 months of licensure, the provisional driver may have only one passenger under the age of 20 in the vehicle , unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

    During the second 6 months of licensure, the provisional driver may have only three passengers under the age of 20 in the vehicle, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

    In both instances, members of the provisional driver’s immediate family do not count toward the passenger restrictions.

Step Three of the Graduated Driver’s Licensing System

The Under 21 Class D Driver’s License

To qualify for the under 21 class D license, the student must be at least 18 years of age, or have held a provisional license for at least 12 consecutive months with no convictions for alcohol violations, controlled-substance violations, or crash related moving violations, and have had not more than one conviction for a moving violation that is not crash related.

The under 21 license will be marked in large red letters, “Under-21”. The under 21 class D license expires on your 21st birthday. When you renew your license on your 21st birthday, you will be issued a full class D license that must be renewed every four years on your birthday.

Benefits of the GDL System

By stepping young driver’s through the Graduated Driver’s Licensing system they are given time to develop driving skills and safely gain experience. They are better able to concentrate on driving, reducing crashes that occur as a result of distractions in the vehicle, peer pressure and lack of experience. In the GDL system the driver is supervised and able to learn from their parents and licensed driver’s education instructors in a much safer environment.

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