Like in many states, Delaware teens become fully licensed drivers through a graduated license system. Each stage of the licensing system has different requirements and restrictions. Here's how it works.
A teen is eligible to apply for a Level 1 Permit at age 16 but must first complete a certified driver's education program. This program will include tests covering the rules of the road as well as a behind-the-wheel performance. The applicant must also provide proof of identification and residency and “sponsor consent.” The sponsor is usually a parent or guardian who signs the application and agrees to be liable for any negligent damage caused by the teen driver. The sponsor can withdraw consent at any time and cancel the teen's license.
After submitting a completed application, the teen driver must take a vision exam, a written test covering local traffic laws, and a road test. Applicants who apply for a Level 1 Permit within six months of completing driver's education are exempt from the written and driving examinations.
After obtaining a Level 1 Permit, the holder can drive only while supervised by a licensed adult who's at least 25 years old and has at least five years of driving experience. The supervising adult must be seated in the front seat at all times. Also, the teen driver can have only one non-family-member passenger (not including the supervising adult) in the vehicle.
During these first six months, the teen must record at least 50 hours of driving time, including ten hours of nighttime driving. The sponsor needs to verify the hours by signing the driving log.
A driver who has completed the driving log and held the Level 1 Permit for at least six months can drive unsupervised from 6:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. After hours driving is permitted for travel to and from school, church, work, and emergency services. The teen can still have only one non-family-member passenger.
All Level 1 Permit holders are prohibited from using a cellphone while driving. A violation or any other instance of negligent driving will result in a one-month license suspension (three months, for subsequent offenses). A suspended driver will be delayed in graduating to the next license level and may be required to retake the driving or written examination.
All drivers and passengers must wear proper seat belts and child restraints.
A teen who's caught operating outside of the restrictions will be fined $50 to $200 and face a two-month license suspension. A subsequent offense will result in a $100 to $500 fine and four-month license suspension. A sponsor who knowingly allows a teen to violate any of the restrictions can be charged with a misdemeanor.
A driver who's at least 17 years old and has held a Level 1 Permit for at least 12 months without suspension can apply for an unrestricted Class D license. The license still requires sponsor consent until the driver reaches 18 years old. Additionally, certain convictions, such as DUI (driving under the influence), can preclude the issuance of a Class D license until the applicant is 18 years old.
Before any driver can operate a vehicle in Delaware, the vehicle must be properly insured. In Delaware, the mandatory insurance requirements are:
Driving without insurance will result in a $1,500 to $2,000 fine and six-months license suspension. A subsequent offense in three years carries $3,000 to $4,000 in fines and a six-month license suspension.
Any lapse in insurance coverage will also result in a $100 fee. After 30 days without insurance, the state will issue an additional $5 per day fee and will suspend the vehicle's registration.