The state of Maryland has a graduated licensing system that educates drivers even before they ever get behind the wheel. This ensures that we equip all our rookie drivers, regardless of age, with the knowledge they need to be safe every time they drive. With each new driver adhering to Maryland traffic laws and practicing defensive driving, our roads will become even safer as time goes on.
Maryland’s Graduated Licensing System
Maryland rookie driver programs emphasize education, training, and practice to make sure new drivers are fully ready to drive. Our graduated licensing system has three phases, each of which has strict requirements.
The first step is to get a learner’s permit. You’ll need this permit before you ever get behind the wheel of a car, even with an experienced driver supervising you.
You must be at least 15 years and 9 months old to apply for a learner’s permit. Note that if you’re under the age of 16, you’ll also need to fill out this DL-300 form to demonstrate school attendance. If you’re under 18, you must have a parent or guardian sign the application, as well.
You must also participate in a vision screening by the MVA or your vision specialist demonstrating that you have:
- Binocular vision
- Acuity of at least 20/40 in each eye
- Field of vision encompassing at least 140 degrees.
Of course it’s fine if you require glasses or corrective lenses to meet these standards. This will simply be listed as a restriction on your license later. (In other words, if you need glasses to pass the vision test, you must also always wear your glasses while driving.)
You’ll also need to pass a knowledge test to make sure you understand Maryland driving laws, traffic signs, and safety practices. This is a timed test usually taken on a computer. The questions vary from exam to exam, so study all the available materials thoroughly. To prepare, we recommend that you:
You may also enroll in a driver’s education course at this point to help you prepare. (You’ll need to complete one eventually, so you can begin it at this phase, if you prefer classroom instruction to self-teaching.)
The test will have 25 questions and you will have 20 minutes to complete it. Online practice tests can be done as timed or untimed tests, which make them excellent practice for the real thing. You will need to get at least 88% of the questions correct in order to pass and get your learner’s permit.
Time to Practice!
Once you have a learner’s permit, it’s valid for two years. During this time, you can drive as long as you have an experienced driver in the car with you. Only drivers 21 or over who have had a license for at least three years qualify as experienced in this context.
You must keep a practice log for your driving to submit to the MVA for the next phase. We recommend you track all your driving practice using the RoadReady App. The MVA recommends this free phone app that allows easy tracking of your supervised driving time, including daytime and night time practice. You can use it to set goals, identify areas where you could use improvement, and log all your progress toward becoming a safe driver.
Required practice times vary with age. If you’re under 25, you need 60 hours of supervised driving practice, including at least 10 hours at night. If you’re over 25, you’ll must document 14 hours of practice, including at least 3 hours of night practice.
Note that, while on a learner’s permit, you are not allowed to use phones or any other wireless communication devices in your car, even if they are hands-free. Distracted driving is a killer and, as a new driver, you need to focus completely on the road.
You’ll need to drive with a learner’s permit for at least 9 months if you’re under 25, or 45 days if you’re over 25. Once this time has passed and you have completed your supervised driving practice, you’re eligible for a provisional license.
Continued Driver Education and Practice
A provisional license also requires more education. To qualify, the state of Maryland requires that you complete an extensive driver’s education course from an approved driving school. These standardized courses include at least 30 hours of classroom instruction and at least 6 hours of practical instruction behind the wheel. You’ll need to submit your driving practice log, your course certificate, and your valid learner’s permit to get a provisional license. The driving school will also submit verification of your participation and completion of the course to the MVA.
Driving Skills Test
Getting a provisional license also requires successful passing of the road skills test. Part of the driving skills test will take place on a closed course and part will be on public roads. You’ll need perform specific driving maneuvers, as well as demonstrate that you can apply your driving and safety knowledge in real situations. This means you need to understand:
- All signals, signs, and traffic markings. By the time you finish all your driving courses, you should be familiar with every type of traffic signal and how to respond to it.
- Safe maneuvering of your vehicle. You’ll need to demonstrate safe lane changes and turns, always signaling to indicate your intent to others.
- Appropriate speeds, following distances, and stopping distances. If you perform any unsafe maneuvers during the test, it will result in an automatic failure.
- Right-of-way rules. Be courteous, yield appropriately, and demonstrate that you understand when you do (and do not) have the right of way.
- Principles of defensive driving. Safe driving driving involves constantly assessing the traffic situation around you. You must then make decisions about how to maneuver your car safely. During the exam, they’ll test how well you observe your surroundings and respond to them.
Ready for your driving skills test? Please schedule online or by calling 410-768-7000.
Provisional Driver Restrictions
Drivers under the age of 18 still have several restrictions on their provisional licenses:
- No cell phones. The restriction regarding phones are other wireless device remains the same as with the learner’s permit. You may not use them while driving, even if they are hands-free.
- You may only drive without supervision during certain hours. From 5am to midnight, you may drive unsupervised. After midnight, you must have an experienced driver supervising you.
- No passengers under the age of 18. For the first five months of your provisional license, you may not transport passengers under the age of 18 unless there’s an experienced driver riding, too.
Full Driver’s License
If you’ve completed all the above requirements, the MVA will transition your license from provisional to full when you turn 18 years old. They’ll send you a card in the mail for you to carry until it’s time for you to renew your license once again.
For More Information
Still need more information? Visit the Maryland MVA’s page for rookie drivers for helpful documents, videos, and more.