North Dakota uses a graduated license system to advance unlicensed drivers from an instruction permit to a valid driver’s license.
At age 14, North Dakota teens can apply for an instruction permit by submitting the application, proof of residency, and a birth certificate to the local Department of Transportation (DOT) office. The examiner may request medical and mental health information related to the applicant’s ability to drive. The applicant must then pass the vision exam and a test covering local traffic signs and traffic laws to receive an instruction permit.
An instruction permit authorizes the holder to drive only under the direct supervision of a licensed adult age 18 or older who has been licensed for at least three years. All teens are also prohibited from using a cellphone while driving.
All minor drivers must have written consent from a parent or guardian who will be held liable for any damage resulting from the teen’s negligence. The parent or guardian can revoke this consent at any point and cancel the teen’s license.
Fourteen-year-old teens who are enrolled in driver’s education but have not tested for an instruction permit can receive a restricted instruction permit. The permit does not require passing the written test, but holders are only permitted to drive under the supervision of the driver’s education instructor in designated areas. Such a permit is not necessary if the training program has an insurance policy covering damages.
After completing driver’s education and holding the instruction permit for 12 months, a 15-year-old teen can apply for a restricted driver’s license. The application must include parental consent, an indication that unsupervised driving is necessary for the teen, and a signed driving log recording 50 hours of supervised driving time. The supervised driving must include various driving conditions including nighttime driving and driving on dirt, gravel, and in urban, rural, and winter conditions. The teen must also complete an approved driver’s education course that includes classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel training. With all requirements satisfied, the teen can take the driving test to obtain a restricted license.
The restricted license permits the holder to drive unsupervised but only:
The Department of Transportation may suspend or revoke the teen’s license for any restriction violation.
After turning 16 years old, a restricted driver’s license can be transferred for an unrestricted license. Without having held a restricted license, a 16-year-old who has held an instruction permit for at least six months can take the driving test to obtain an unrestricted driver’s license. Driver’s education and a driving log are not required but proof of residency, a birth certificate, and parental consent are needed.
Regardless of the type of license or permit held, all North Dakota drivers under 18 years old must have parental consent and cannot use cellphones while driving. Minor drivers who accumulate six points or are adjudicated of an alcohol or drug-related driving offense will have their license canceled. A license that's canceled is considered to have never existed, meaning the teen will need to reapply, pass driver’s education, test, and obtain an instruction permit—starting the whole process over.
Before any driver can lawfully operate a vehicle in North Dakota, the vehicle must be properly insured. North Dakota mandatory liability insurance must include at least $25,000 bodily injury per person, $50,000 bodily injury per accident, and $25,000 property damage per accident.
Failure to have valid insurance is a non-criminal violation, which carries a mandatory fine of $150 for a first offense and $300 for a subsequent offense within three years. The driver’s license will be suspended until proof of valid insurance is shown. A second or subsequent offense will also require the driver’s license plates to be impounded until fees are paid and proof of insurance is obtained.