California Driving Laws For Minors: A Complete Overview

Published: May 9, 2023
Last updated: May 12, 2023

For young drivers, understanding and adhering to California driving laws for minors is crucial to ensure their safety and the safety of others on the road. In this comprehensive guide, we will provide an in-depth analysis of California driving laws for minors, ensuring that young drivers and their parents have a clear understanding of the rules and regulations. 

This complete overview will guide you through California driving laws for minors, including the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program, provisional licenses, restrictions, and penalties for violations.

Teen Driving Accidents in California

In California, car crashes are among the leading causes of death for teenagers and young adults. According to the California Department of Public Health, young drivers are more likely to crash when they drive with teenage passengers than when they drive with adults present.

Due to their inexperience behind the wheel, teens are at high risk for crashes during their first year of driving. Inexperienced drivers contribute significantly to the high fatalities among teenagers and young adults.

There are several risk factors associated with young drivers, including inexperience, distracted driving, nighttime driving, driving under the influence, and speeding, highlighting the need for targeted interventions. Learning California driving laws for minors can help young drivers be aware of road safety.

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Program in California

California's GDL program is designed to help minors gain experience behind the wheel in a safe and controlled manner. The GDL program has three stages: the learner's permit phase, the provisional license phase, and the full license phase.

Learner's Permit

Minors at least 15 ½ years old may apply for a learner's permit after completing a state-approved driver's education course. With a learner's permit, minors are allowed to practice driving under the supervision of a licensed driver who is at least 25 years old.

Provisional License

After holding a learner's permit for at least six months, completing 50 hours of supervised driving (including 10 hours of nighttime driving), and passing a behind-the-wheel driving test, minors aged 16-17 can obtain a provisional license. This license comes with certain restrictions to ensure the safety of young drivers.

Provisional License Restrictions in CA

During the first year of holding a provisional license or until the minor turns 18, the following restrictions apply:


Provisional license holders may not drive between 11:00 PM and 5:00 AM unless accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 25 years old or if driving to or from work or a school-related activity.

Passenger Limitations

Minors with a provisional license may not transport passengers under 20 years old without a licensed driver who is at least 25 years old present in the vehicle unless the passengers are immediate family members.


Teen drivers who violate the restrictions associated with their provisional license, such as driving during curfew hours or transporting passengers under the age of 20 without a licensed adult, may face penalties, including:

  • Fines up to $100 for a first offense and higher fines for subsequent offenses

  • One point on their driving record

  • An extended period of restricted driving privileges

Penalties for Violations for Teen Drivers in California

Teen drivers in California are subject to strict penalties if they violate driving laws. These penalties serve as a deterrent and encourage young drivers to develop safe and responsible driving habits.

Cell Phone Use and Texting

California law prohibits all drivers under the age of 18 from using a cell phone or any electronic device while driving, even with a hands-free device.

This includes talking, texting, and browsing the internet. If a teen driver is caught using a cell phone while driving, they may face the following penalties:

  • A fine of $20 for the first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses

  • One point on their driving record

  • An extended period of restricted driving privileges

Alcohol and Drug Violations

California has a Zero Tolerance policy for drivers under the age of 21 when it comes to alcohol and drugs. This means that any detectable amount of alcohol or drugs in a minor's system while driving is considered a violation. Penalties for alcohol and drug violations among teen drivers include:

  • License suspension for one year (first offense), two years (second offense), or three years (third or subsequent offense)

  • Fines up to $250 for a first offense and higher fines for subsequent offenses

  • Mandatory enrollment in an alcohol or drug education program

Speeding and Reckless Driving

Speeding and reckless driving are common factors in accidents involving teenage drivers. Penalties for speeding or reckless driving vary based on the severity of the offense and the driver's history, and may include:

  • Fines range from $35 to $500, depending on the severity of the offense

  • One to two points on the driver's record

  • Traffic school attendance

  • Increased insurance premiums

Final Thoughts

California driving laws for minors are designed to ensure the safety of young drivers and others on the road. By understanding and adhering to these regulations, minors can develop responsible driving habits that will serve them well into adulthood.

Be sure to stay informed and follow California's driving laws to create a safer driving environment for everyone. For more information on driving laws, auto repair tips, and more, head over to Keep Driving today!

Managing Editor Before joining Keep Driving, Elaine was an editor for an international internet technology consulting firm. She shows tremendous interest in writing about future technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learnings.
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