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How to Get a Learners Permit in Tennessee

Young motorists must obtain a Tennessee learners permit before they may apply for an intermediate or regular driving license. As such, motorists may obtain a DMV learners permit if they are at least 15 years of age, attend school and pass a knowledge exam and vision screening. After getting a permit for driving, motorists may practice operating a vehicle with a licensed driver older than 21 years of age. Once motorists hold a DMV drivers permit for a minimum of 180 days, they may apply for an intermediate driver license. To learn more about getting a learners permit in TN, review the information below.

Tennessee Learners Permit Eligibility Requirements

Young residents must apply for a learners drivers license in Tennessee and meet all other requirements for learners permit credentials before they may obtain a regular driving license through the Department of Safety and Homeland Security (TDOSHS). As such, motorists must get learners permit credentials (or a class PD instructional license) as part of the state’s Teen/Graduated Driver License (GDL) Program. All motorists must obtain a DMV learner’s permit and successfully complete the three phases of the GDL Program if they are younger than 18 years of age. In addition to the learning permit phase, motorists must obtain an intermediate restricted license and an intermediate unrestricted license before they may apply for a regular driving credential. However, motorists do not need to obtain a learner permit or complete the GDL Program if they are 18 years of age or older during the time of application. Furthermore, applicants may obtain a driving permit without completing a driver education program, as it is not a requirement in the state of Tennessee. To get a learners permit in TN, applicants must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Be at least 15 years of age
  • Pass a vision screening and knowledge exam
  • Attend high school or be homeschooled
  • Receive signed permission from a parent or legal guardian
  • Provide proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency

After following all TN learners permit rules and regulations for 180 days, motorists who are at least 16 years of age may apply for an intermediate restricted license. To obtain this type of DMV driving permit, applicants must complete 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training and pass a road skills test. Once learner driving license applicants turn 17 years of age, they may apply for an intermediate unrestricted license. When they turn 18 years of age or graduate from high school, they can remove the word “intermediate” from their credential and obtain regular driving license privileges.

How to Get a Learners Permit in Tennessee

For applicants wondering where to get learners permit credentials, it is important to note that they must meet minimum age requirements before they may visit a Driver Service Center to complete their knowledge exam and apply in person. Applicants cannot get a learning permit unless they are at least 15 years of age or qualify for a Class H Hardship License, as hardship credentials are available to certain minors who are 14 years of age. Furthermore, drivers cannot apply for a learners permit online or by mail. However, applicants may complete a practice learners permit test online to help them study for their written knowledge exam. They may study the Tennessee Driver License Manual for additional information. Applicants can review sample learners permit questions and answers in the state’s Driver License Manual and by completing an online practice exam.

When applying for a learners permit in TN, motorists must visit a Driver Service Center to complete the following steps:

  • Pass a vision screening with a score of 20/40 in each eye and both eyes together.
  • Pass a Class D knowledge exam.
  • Submit a Minor/Teenage Affidavit and Cancellation form with a signature from a parent or legal guardian.
  • Submit proof of school attendance with a dated signature from a guidance counselor or principal (no older than 30 days from the application date) or a high school diploma or GED.
  • Submit a letter from the local director of schools or a Verification of Home School Enrollment, if homeschooled.

In addition to the above, Tennessee learners permit applicants must submit proof of state residency, identity, Social Security Number and U.S. citizenship status. DMV learning permit applicants must also pay all applicable learner license fees in the form of check, money order, cash or credit card.

Tennessee DMV Learners Permit Driving Restrictions

Once motorists obtain a permit for driving a motor vehicle, they must follow various learners permit rules, regulations and restrictions. For instance, with a TN DMV learners permit motorists may not drive between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., operate a vehicle without wearing a seatbelt (including passengers) and drive a car without a licensed adult in the front seat who is older than 21 years of age. Once Tennessee learner license applicants turn 16 years of age and obtain an intermediate restricted license, they can only drive a vehicle with one other passenger (unless one of the passengers is 21 years of age or older or all passengers are the driver’s siblings and they go to or from school). Motorists with an intermediate TN driving permit cannot operate a motor vehicle between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 p.m., unless a parent, guardian or licensed driver older than 21 years of age is present or they are driving to or from work or school. Additionally, young motorists may drive a vehicle between the hours of 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. if they are going hunting or fishing. Once DMV learner permit motorists obtain an intermediate unrestricted license, they will be exempt from following these restrictions.

If Tennessee learner permit applicants drop out of school before graduation or if they do not maintain “satisfactory progress” in their classes, then the TDOSHS will suspend their driving privileges. If learning permit holders return to school after dropping out for the first time, however, then they will regain their driving privileges. Otherwise, students must wait until they are at least 18 years of age to apply for a driver license if they do not return to school or if they drop out for a second time.


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