Pennsylvania employs a graduated license system, requiring teens to hold a learner’s permit and junior license before obtaining an unrestricted driver’s license.
At age 16, a teen can apply for a learner’s permit. The application must include identification, proof of residency, and parental consent (present or notarized). If the parent ever withdraws consent, the Department of Transportation (DOT) will cancel the teen’s permit. To obtain a learner’s permit, the teen must pass a physical exam, vision exam, and written test covering traffic laws and signals.
A learner’s permit allows the holder to drive only under the supervision of an authorized adult. This authorized adult can be any licensed driver who’s at least 21 years old or a licensed parent or spouse who’s at least 18 years old. The authorized adult must sit in the front seat and not be impaired by drugs or alcohol. The holder can’t drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. without documented proof of necessity.
A junior license is available to teens who have held a learner’s permit for at least six months. The application for a junior permit must be certified by a parent and include a driving log with 65 hours of supervised driving time, including ten hours of night driving and five hours of driving in inclement weather. The applicant can then take the driving test to obtain a junior license.
A junior license holder is permitted to drive unsupervised from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. or anytime while supervised by an authorized adult. Exceptions to time restrictions also exist for persons with signed documentation of a work- or charity-based need for transportation.
For the first six months, junior licensees can carry only one minor passenger. This restriction does not apply to family members or if the teen driver is supervised by an authorized adult. After six months, junior license holders can transport up to three minor passengers (the same exemptions apply). However, if the junior licensee has any at-fault accidents or traffic tickets, he or she will be restricted to one minor passenger.
Any violation of these restrictions is considered a summary offense. Junior licensees at fault for a traffic accident will face a license suspension of up to 90 days (or until 18 years old).
Teens who have held the junior license for 12 months without any traffic violations or at-fault accidents and have completed driver’s education are eligible for an unrestricted license. Otherwise, a junior license will automatically become unrestricted when the license holder turns 18 years old.
While not subject to junior license restrictions, minor drivers are still subject to special penalties. Any minor who is in violation of the school attendance requirements will have his or her license canceled. Minors who accumulate six driving points or who are caught speeding 26 miles per hour or more over the posted limit will face a 90-day suspension. A subsequent violation will result in a 120-day suspension.
The number of passengers for a minor driver cannot exceed the number of seat belts in the vehicle.
Pennsylvania requires all vehicles driven to be properly insured. Pennsylvania requires a minimum liability insurance policy of at least $15,000 bodily injury per person, $30,000 bodily injury per accident, and $5,000 property damage per accident.
Registration. Any time the state is notified that an insurance policy has been terminated or lapsed, it will suspend the vehicle’s registration for three months. In lieu of suspension, the owner may pay a $500 fee.
License suspension. Driving without proof of insurance is a summary offense and carries a $300 fine. The DOT will also suspend the driver’s license for three months. The driver must show proof of insurance before the DOT will reinstate the license.