tennesee-road-signGetting a driver’s license represents a giant step forward in a young person’s life, but the road there can sometimes be a little confusing. Luckily, getting your Tennessee driver’s license doesn’t have to be difficult. This handy guide will help you become familiar with the entire process from preparing for your permit test to getting your full driver’s license.

Like most other states, Tennessee requires that all teen drivers complete a Graduated Driver’s License Program (GDL) before they can earn unrestricted driving privileges. The GDL is a multi-stage process that gives beginner drivers the time they need to practice while still remaining under the supervision of a licensed driver. GDL programs have been shown to reduce the number of traffic accidents that are caused by inexperienced young drivers.

The Tennessee GDL program features three unique stages:

  • Learner’s Permit
  • Intermediate Restricted License
  • Intermediate Unrestricted License

This article will demonstrate how to pass the Tennessee permit test and complete the other stages of the GDL so you can ultimately go on to earn unrestricted driving privileges.

Learner’s Permit

When you are 15 years old, you will be allowed to apply or your Learner’s Permit in the state of Tennessee. To do so, you will need to pass a written Class D Knowledge Exam (also known as the permit test), which will check how carefully you have studied the rules of the road, traffic signs and other important information related to driving.

Study as Hard as Possible

We offer a free copy of the Tennessee Driver’s Handbook to use in your studies. Be sure to read the entire book, and spend every time on any chapters you don’t feel sure about. It isn’t very likely that you will pass the permit test on your first try if you don’t study, so be sure to allow plenty of time each day to devote to reading.

Don’t Skip Practice Exams

Practice exams are a wonderful resource for learning, and passing our Tennessee practice permit test is the best way to make sure you are prepared for the real thing. Our test includes much of the same subject matter as the actual exam, and taking it will increase your odds of doing well.

Visit the Tennessee Department of Safety (TDOS) Offices and Do Your Testing

When you feel your studies have fully prepared you, visit the TDOS offices, bringing along:

  • A completed Tennessee Minor/Teenage Affidavit and Cancellation (Form SF-0259) signed by your parent or guardian.
  • Signed proof that you are enrolled in school and maintaining satisfactory attendance (Form SF-1010).
  • Your birth certificate, Social Security card, Passport or other identifying documents.
  • Two documents showing proof of Tennessee residency (utility bills, credit-card bills, school enrollment cards).
  • $10.50 in fees.

At this point, you will be given the permit test. As long as you studied carefully, you should do quite well. When you pass, you will also be given a vision exam to make sure you can see well enough to drive. If you require contacts or corrective lenses, make sure you have them with you.

Begin to Practice

While holding your Learner’s Permit, you must complete at least 50 hours of practice driving while under the supervision of a licensed driver age 21 or above. Of those hours, 10 must be at night when driving is more difficult.

Intermediate Restricted License

When you are at least 16 years old, you have held your permit for 180 days and you have completed the practice requirements, you can make an appointment for the behind-the-wheel driving test and apply for your Intermediate Restricted License.

On appointment day, visit the TDOS testing site and bring along:

  • A completed Certification of 50 Hours of Behind the Wheel Experience (Form SF-1256), which must be signed by your parent or guardian.
  • A financial responsibility form, which must be signed by your parent or guardian.
  • Another proof of school enrollment and attendance. You cannot use the one you used before.
  • The same documents used before to prove identity and residency.
  • A registered and insured vehicle to use for the driving test.
  • $24.50 in fees.

The road test is very simple and should be over in a few minutes. You have practiced hard for this, and as long as you stay calm, you should do great.

When you are given your Intermediate Restricted License, you should be aware that it comes with some limitations. Unless supervised by a licensed driver age 21 or above, you cannot:

  • Drive between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless traveling to work, school, or for hunting and fishing purposes (must have a valid hunting or fishing license).
  • Drive with more than one passenger unless those passengers are immediate family members and you have written permission from your parent or guardian to transport them.

Driver’s License

When you turn 17 and have completed all of the required elements of the GDL program, the restrictions will be removed from your license after you visit the TDOS and pay a $2 upgrade fee. At this stage, you will basically have the same privileges as those who carry a full license, but your license will be marked to show that you are still underage. When you turn 18, you graduate from high school or receive your GED (whichever is first), you will earn your Full License. There is a $10 fee to upgrade at this time.

Congratulations! You are now a fully licensed driver.

Additional Information

The state of Tennessee allows certain teens in difficult family situations to begin driving as early as age 14. This is called the Hardship License, and it’s only given in rare circumstances. For example, if your only parent or guardian is disabled and cannot drive you to school or take care of basic needs such as grocery shopping, you may qualify for this license. To apply, you will need to visit the TDOS offices and complete a Hardship License Application Form (SF-0263). You will also need to complete a state-approved driver’s education course.