south-dakota-road-signAre you ready to get out on the road and experience all the freedom that a South Dakota driver’s license has to offer? The process doesn’t have to be confusing. Our easy-to-follow guide will help you every step of the way, from passing your permit test to finally earning unrestricted driving privileges.

Like most other states, South Dakota uses a Graduated Driver’s License Program (GDL), a multi-stage process that has been shown to reduce the number of traffic collisions caused by inexperienced drivers. The GDL program will allow you to learn important driving skills while remaining under the supervision of a licensed driver.

In South Dakota, the GDL process features three distinct stages:

  • Instruction Permit
  • Restricted Minor’s Permit
  • Operator’s License

On this page, you will learn how to prepare for the South Dakota permit test and complete the other stages of the GDL so that you can go on to receive your full driver’s license.

Instruction Permit

When you are 14 years old, you can apply for your Instruction Permit (or learner’s permit) in South Dakota. To do so, you will need to pass a written knowledge test (or permit test) that will check your awareness of the rules of the road, traffic signs and other important information related to driving.

Devote Time to Study

If you want to pass your permit test on the first try, you will need to devote time to study. We offer a free copy of the South Dakota Driver’s Manual for you to use, and if you would prefer a physical copy, you can request one by visiting the offices of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety (DPS).

Invest Your Time in Practice Exams

If you don’t take practice exams, you are missing out on a valuable resource for learning. Our South Dakota practice permit test includes the same subject matter you will see on the real test, and taking it will increase your chances of doing well.

Visit the South Dakota DPS Offices and Take Your Tests

When you’re ready, visit the DPS offices and bring along:

  • Your certified birth certificate.
  • Your parent or guardian.
  • $8 in testing fees.
  • Your Social Security card.
  • Two documents to prove residency (parent’s utility bill, school enrollment card or other documents).

Now, you will be given the written test. As long as you studied hard, passing shouldn’t be a problem. When you do, you will be given a vision test to make sure you can see well enough to drive.

Begin Your Practice

Your permit will allow you to practice driving while supervised by a licensed driver over the age of 18 who has at least one year of driving experience. You will be required to hold your permit for at least 180 days before you will be allowed to move on to the next stage of the GDL process. However, if you choose to take a state-approved driver’s education program, you will only have to hold your permit for 90 days.

Restricted Minor’s Permit

When you are at least 14 and 90 days old, you have completed driver’s education and you haven’t received any traffic violations, you can apply for your Restricted Minor’s Permit. This requires that you pass a behind-the-wheel road test, which will check how well you maintain control over your vehicle and obey traffic law. You won’t have to make an appointment, but keep in mind that the DPS does not do tests within an hour of closing time.

When you are ready, visit DPS testing location and bring along:

  • Your permit.
  • The same identification and residency documents you used before.
  • Proof that you completed driver’s education (if needed).
  • A parent or guardian.
  • A registered and insured vehicle to use for the test.
  • $8 in testing and license fees.

Relax and do your best on the road test. As long as you have been practicing, passing should be easy.

When you pass, you will be given your Restricted Minor’s Permit, which will allow you to drive alone between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. If you want to drive in the middle of the night, you will need a licensed parent or guardian in the passenger seat.

Operator’s License

When you are at least 16 years old, you have completed the other requirements of the GDL process and you haven’t received any traffic convictions, you are eligible to upgrade to your unrestricted Operator’s License. To do so, visit the DPS offices, bringing along your permit, $20 in fees and the same identification and residency documents you used before. Your new license will be mailed to your home.

Congratulations! You are now a licensed driver.

Additional Information

The DPS does not accept credit or debit cards. Be prepared to pay your fees with cash, a personal check or a money order.