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California Driver's License Laws

In much of California, especially in the southern part of the state, freeways and private vehicles dominate the transportation infrastructure. This makes owning a car a necessity, which in turn requires a driver's license. The state's Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV, handles the laws, applications for and distribution of these licenses.

New Licenses

People applying for a new license must visit a DMV office and complete an original application form, known as a DL 44. Applicants provide a thumbprint and Social Security number and have their picture taken. After paying the application fee and passing vision and written examinations, applicants proceed to a driving test, which requires an advance appointment. The applicant needs a vehicle and must show it's properly insured.

Applicants have three chances to pass the written and driving tests. There is no waiting period between tests, but an appointment is needed and so is an additional fee. When an applicant passes these test, she receives an interim license that's valid for 60 days until the new photo license arrives in the mail.


Teens age 15½ to 18 can apply for a provisional driver license, which enables them to receive hands-on instructions in driving a car. The teen must hold this license for at least six months before he is able to take the driving test. For the test, he must also have completed driver education, finished six hours of professional driver training and practiced at least 50 hours with an adult age 25 or older, who has a valid license and can certify the practice. A minimum of 10 of these 50 hours must be done at night.

Teens who pass the driving text receive a temporary license that's valid for 60 days. The photo license arrives in the mail. Failing the test means waiting for at least two weeks before retaking the test. The test can be retaken three times before the application process must be begin again with a repayment of the test fee.

Senior Citizens

The DMV doesn't automatically take away the licenses of senior citizens upon reaching a certain age. It's a senior citizen's mental and physical condition that determines whether the license is renewed, restricted, suspended or revoked. All licensing procedures, including renewal by mail, are available to this age group. However, customers who are 70 years or older must renew their licenses in person at a DMV office.

Personal visits go faster with an appointment. Customers must bring in the renewal notice to avoid completing an application form. An applicant must also bring any corrective eyewear, because a vision test if part of the process. Senior citizens must take written and driving tests that judge their ability to obey traffic laws and safely operate a vehicle.
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