Tennessee Driving Rules & Requirements

Drivers under 18 years old are required to go through graduated steps of driving experience to gain full, unrestricted Driver's License status.

The Graduated Driver License steps are designed to incrementally teach young drivers how to drive by requiring minimum levels of driving experience and a safe driving history record before allowing teenage drivers to receive a "full-fledged" Class D driver license.  Motor vehicle crashes are the major cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 20. By requiring more supervised practice, the State of Tennessee hopes to save lives and prevent tragic injuries.  There are four steps to becoming a full, unrestricted Driver License holder:

Learner Permit

  • You must be 15 years old and pass the standard written exams and vision screening.
  • You must hold a learner permit for 180 days in order to move to the Intermediate Restricted License step.
  • You may drive a car only when accompanied by a licensed driver 21 years or older who is riding in the front seat of the vehicle.
  • You may not drive between the hours of 10 P.M. and 6 A.M.
  • Driver and passengers must wear a safety belt.

Documents required to get a Permit

  1. Proof of U.S. Citizenship or Lawful Permanent Resident: Birth Certificate, Passport, or I-551
  2. Secondary Proof of Identity:  SSN card, Work ID, Voter Registration Card, School ID
  3. Teenage Affidavit/Financial Responsibility
  4. Proof of School Attendance/Progress - From SF1010 signed and dated within the past 30 days

Intermediate License

There are two Intermediate License levels for drivers under 18 years of age. The first level is the Intermediate Restricted License and the second level is the Intermediate Unrestricted License.

First Level - Restricted License

  • You must be 16 years old and pass the driving skills test, also known as the road test.
  • You must have held a learner permit for 180 days.
  • You cannot have tickets for driving offenses that add up to more than six points on your driving record during the immediate 180 days preceding your application.
  • You must have verification from a parent, legal guardian, or licensed driving instructor stating you have 50 hours (10 hours at night) of driving experience. Certification of driving experience must be made on the official form (SF-1256) provided by the Department of Safety. This form is available at all Driver License Service Centers or may be downloaded here: http://www.tn.gov/assets/entities/safety/attachments/gdl50hrcertificate.pdf. This form must be signed by either a parent, legal guardian, or licensed driving instructor.
  • Driver and passengers must wear a safety belt.

Second Level - Unrestricted License

To move from the Intermediate Restricted to the Unrestricted License, you must be seventeen (17) years old and meet the following conditions:

  • You must have held an Intermediate Restricted License for one (1) year.
  • You cannot have accumulated more than six points on your driving record.
  • You cannot have had a traffic accident that was your fault.
  • You cannot have 2 safety belt violations.
  • Driver and passengers must wear a safety belt.
  • No additional tests are required.

Regular Driver License

You may obtain a Class D regular driver's license when you are eighteen (18) years of age, or when you graduate from high school or receive a GED, whichever is sooner. The word "Intermediate" will be removed from your license when you move to the Regular Driver License. However, the license will still include the "Under 21" indicators.

Driver Ed Services