To become fully licensed drivers, Wisconsin teens ordinarily must first obtain an instruction permit followed by a probationary license.
At 15 and a half years old, a teen can take a written test and vision exam at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to obtain an instruction permit. The application for an instruction permit must include proof of identification, proof of residency, a copy of the applicant’s social security card, and a certificate of enrollment in a driver’s education program. A parent or guardian who will be responsible for any negligence of the teen must sign the application. This adult must also certify that the teen is presently enrolled (and not truant) in school. At any point, the signing adult can withdraw consent and notify the DMV to cancel the teen’s license.
The instruction permit allows the holder to drive during daylight hours while supervised from the front seat by an “eligible adult.” An eligible adult must be at least 19 years old, have at least two years of driving experience, and be:
Instruction permit holders can drive after dark only if supervised by a driving instructor or licensed adult who’s at least 25 years old.
Permit holders are generally prohibited from carrying any other passengers. However, when supervised by a driving instructor in a dual-control vehicle, up to three other passengers can ride in the vehicle. And when the teen driver is supervised by a parent or spouse, immediate family members can ride along. After turning 16, the teen can transport passengers while supervised by a licensed adult who’s age should be 25 or older. All passengers in the vehicle must have seatbelts.
Any restriction violation will result in a forfeiture of up to $50 for a first offense. Subsequent offenses will result in a forfeiture of $50 to $100.
After completing driver’s education and holding an instruction permit for at least six months without any moving violations, a 16-year-old can apply for a probationary license. The application must include a driving log signed by a parent certifying the completion of 30 hours supervised driving time (including ten nighttime hours). Parental consent and school enrollment are still required. With all these requirements satisfied, the teen can take the driving test to obtain a probationary license.
For the first nine months of holding a probationary license, the driver can’t drive between midnight and 5 a.m. unless supervised by an eligible adult or while driving to or from work, school, or home. During this time period, the teen can carry only one passenger, not including family members or supervising eligible adults.
Any violation of these restrictions will result in a $50 forfeiture and three traffic violation demerit points. Subsequent offenses carry a $50 to $100 forfeiture and six demerit points. The nine-month waiting period will also be extended six months for each restriction or moving violation.
License restriction violations can also result in misdemeanor charges. A misdemeanor conviction carries fines of up to $500 and a maximum of six months in jail, depending on the number of prior offenses.
After holding a probationary license for at least nine months or when the teen turns 18 years old, the probationary restrictions are lifted.
All instruction permit and probationary license holders are prohibited from using a cellphone while driving. A violation leads to a $20 to $40 forfeiture and four demerit points. A subsequent offense carries a forfeiture of $50 to $100 and eight demerit points.
Before any driver can operate a vehicle in Wisconsin, the vehicle must be properly insured. In Wisconsin, the liability coverage must include at least $25,000 bodily injury per person, $50,000 bodily injury per accident, and $10,000 property damage per accident.
Failure to provide and display valid insurance can result in a forfeiture of up to $500.