Teen Driving and the Graduated License in Wisconsin
Wisconsin has a Graduated Driver Licensing Program (GDL). GDL laws have been proven to reduce fatalities, lower injuries and ultimately result in safer highways and roadways. New drivers who participate in the GDL system must reach various milestones before they are allowed to graduate to a less restrictive license level and eventually receive a full unrestricted license. The rules described below explain how Wisconsin’s GDL system works. The Wisconsin graduated licensing system applies to teen drivers between the ages of 15½ and 18.
The Wisconsin Instruction Permit
Applicants for a Wisconsin instruction permit must be at least 15 years and six months of age to qualify. All Wisconsin drivers under the age of 18 must have an adult sponsor to receive a permit. Please see the sponsorship link at the end of this page to view qualifying adults.
The sponsor must sign the permit application in the presence of a notary public or an authorized DMV employee. Applicants must present valid identification proving date of birth and identity in the form of a certified copy of the applicant's birth certificate, passport or Wisconsin identification card.
The applicant must be enrolled in a Wisconsin approved driver education course or present a certificate of completion from the course. Teen drivers must pass a vision screening, a knowledge test and highway signs test prior to receiving an instruction permit. After all of the criteria have been met the teen driver will receive an instruction permit. Instruction permit holders may only drive while accompanied by one of the following:
- A qualified licensed instructor that is at least 19 years of age
- A licensed parent, guardian or spouse that is a minimum of 19 years of age
- A licensed approved responsible adult that is at least 21 years of age
The fully licensed adult must occupy the front passenger seat next to the teen driver and have two years of driving experience. If the permit holder is accompanied by a parent, guardian or spouse, immediate family members are permitted as passengers in the back seat. The instruction permit is valid for a period of one year and is renewable.
The Wisconsin Probationary License
Applicants for the Wisconsin probationary license must be at least 16 years of age. During the instruction permit phase the teen driver must have accrued 30 hours of driving experience to qualify for a probationary license. 10 of these 30 hours must be nighttime driving. Applicants for the Wisconsin probationary license may use up to five hours of the driving experience with a qualified instructor and receive two times the credit for accrued logged driving time. For example, five hours with a qualified driving instructor would count as 10 hours of logged driving time. The parent or responsible adult must certify these driving hours with their signature, please use the links at the bottom of this page to download the Wisconsin driver log form. Applicants must not have received any traffic convictions for the most recent six months prior to application for a probationary license. Applicants must pass a driving skills test to receive a Wisconsin probationary license. After all of the criteria have been met the teen driver will receive the probationary license. During the first 9 months that the teen driver holds this license they may drive alone during the hours of 5:00 AM to midnight, however passengers are limited to one person and the following:
- a fully licensed immediate family members and, if applicable, the legal guardian
- a fully licensed adult with two years of driving experience that is at least 21 years of age
- a qualified driving instructor or spouse that is at least 19 years of age
If the teen driver wishes to drive alone outside of the hours specified above they must be driving between home and school or work with the same passenger limitations in effect. Otherwise during the restricted hours the teen driver must be accompanied by a fully licensed driver with two years of driving experience who is:
- a minimum of 21 years of age
- a qualified instructor
- a spouse that is a minimum of 19 years of age
After 9 months these restrictions will be lifted if the probationary license has not been suspended or revoked. In addition the restrictions will not be lifted if the teen driver has been convicted of any traffic violation or license restrictions. The probationary license is valid for two years from the birthday following the date of issue. For example the license of a driver who was 16 at the time of issue, would not expire until the driver reached the age of 19. If the probationary license has been held in good standing (No convictions or violations) and the teen driver has reached the age of 19, the drive would then qualify for a Wisconsin Regular Driver License.
Wisconsin Insurance Requirements
The Wisconsin requires that all drivers maintain minimum liability insurance. Proof of financial responsibility must be certified and meet the minimum requirements listed below:
- $25,000 bodily injury or death of one person in any one accident
- $50,000 bodily injury of death of more than one person in any one accident
- $10,000 damage to the property of others
In special cases a bond from an insurance company or a cash deposit of $60,000 posted to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is acceptable.