Updated June 10, 2016
West Virginia has a Graduate Driver’s Licensing (GDL) Program. 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. This article explains how West Virginia’s GDL system works.
To apply for the West Virginia level 1 permit, a person must be at least 15 years old. All first-time applicants must present valid identification and proof of residency in the form of a certified birth certificate, a social security card, and two documents evidencing residency in West Virginia.
Applicants must have parental consent indicated on their permit application. If the applicant is married, parental consent is waived; however a married applicant must provide a marriage certificate. Teen drivers must also provide a valid Driver’s Eligibility Certificate, which is issued the local school board and proves the teen driver’s attendance. An applicant who has completed school must provide a certificate of completion. Teen drivers must also pass a knowledge test and a vision screening prior to receiving an instructional permit.
After meeting all the criteria, the teen driver can receive an instruction permit (also called a level 1 permit or license). Drivers who hold an instruction permit may drive only between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. and must have licensed driver who is at least 21 years of age in the front seat. In addition to the supervising adult, teenagers with level 1 permits are limited to two passengers. The driver and passengers must wear safety belts at all times while driving. Instruction permit holders are prohibited from using any “wireless communication devices” while driving, except to call 911 in the event of an emergency.
An instruction permit is valid until the teen driver reaches the age of 18. After the teen turns 18, there’s a 30-day time period to complete the road skills examination, a prerequisite to qualify for a level 2 license (also known as an intermediate license).
A level 1 permit can’t be renewed. If the permit expires, the teen driver must reapply for a permit and hold it in good standing without a traffic conviction for at least 180 days before applying for a level 2 license.
Teen drivers between the ages of 16 and 18 who have completed all the instruction permit requirements listed above are eligible for a level 2 license. Applicants must have at least 180 days of consecutive driving without a traffic conviction immediately prior to applying for the level 2 license. Applicants must present valid identification and proof of residency.
To apply for a level 2 license, the teen driver must complete either a driver’s education course approved by the State Department of Education or 50 hours of behind-the-wheel experience (including at least ten hours of night driving) certified by a parent, legal guardian, or other responsible adult who is older than 21. Applicants must also provide a valid Driver’s Eligibility Certificate or proof of having completed school. Lastly, teen drivers must pass a road skills test to receive a level 2 license.
Level 2 license holders may drive alone only between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. Outside of those hours, the teen driver must be accompanied by a licensed driver at least 21 years of age, unless one of the exceptions applies. The exceptions include:
During the first six months of holding a level 2 license, the teen motorist can’t driver with any passenger under 20 years old, unless the passengers are family members of the licensee. After holding a level 2 license for six months, the licensee is allowed to have one non-family passenger who is under 20 years old. The driver and passengers must wear safety belts at all times, and the teen driver is prohibited from using any “wireless communication devices” while driving, except to call 911 in the event of an emergency.
A level 2 licensee is generally eligible to receive a level 3 license if the licensee:
A teen driver who turns 18 years old while holding a level 2 license need only complete the application and pay the fees to get a level 3 license—the other requirements that 17-year-old applicants must complete don’t apply.
A level 3 license is valid until 30 days after the licensee turn 21 years old. Drivers under the age of 21 are subject to West Virginia’s zero tolerance drinking and driving laws. The driver and all passengers must wear seat belts at all times.
The State of West Virginia requires all vehicles registered in the state to maintain a minimum amount of liability insurance. Drivers must carry proof of insurance with them at all time while driving and present this proof when requested by a law enforcement officer. The minimum insurance amounts for any one accident are:
Drivers that fail to meet the insurance requirements can get their license and registration suspended.