There are 3 stages to the New York Graduated licensing system and three different districts that have differing restrictions on those licenses, depending on where you live. This system was developed to help young drivers navigate the roads and laws in a way that promotes safe driving.
Under 18 Drivers
Learner’s Permit, 16 years old
Under 16 years old and you are prevented from operating a motor vehicle in the state, even if you have a permit from another state. Also, you cannot substitute another state’s learner’s permit for a NY learner’s permit. You must reapply and satisfy all conditions in NY’s GDL system to get licensed in the state if under 18 years old.
At 16 years old in NY you can apply for your first permit, called a learner’s permit. Simply attend any local NY DMV office and meet the following conditions. You must provide proof of residency, proof of your age, social security card or proof of ineligibility, complete Form MV-44 which will require a parent or guardian’s signature, pass a vision and written knowledge test and pay a fee.
Under this permit you may only drive with another licensed driver who is 21 years or older. All passengers must wear seat belts or safety restraints, you may not drive in a DMV test-area, and you cannot drive on any street in a park in New York City or on any tunnel or bridge within the Triborough Bridge & Tunnel Authority’s jurisdiction or on any of the parkways in Westchester County.
In Upstate New York, you can only have 1 other passenger besides the licensed supervising driver and only the licensed driver can sit in the front passenger seat. These rules also apply to Long Island residents.
In the City of New York, learner permit drivers are restricted from driving in the five boroughs under any circumstance. You must either practice outside NYC or wait until you can apply for the Junior License.
Junior License, 16 years, 6 months
Only after you have held a learner’s permit for 6 months can you apply for a Junior License in New York State. You must also have completed the compulsory 50 hours of behind the wheel driving experience including 15 hours of night time driving. You will also be required to provide proof that you have taken a pre-licensing course (Form MV-278) or a Driver’s Education Certificate provided by most high school or college driving programs as approved by the state. After providing this proof, you may schedule a driving road skills test that you must pass in order to get a Junior Driver’s License.
In Upstate New York, you can drive with a Junior license during the hours of 5am to 9pm. Outside of these hours you can only drive to and from home and work or a school activity. Outside of these routes you must be accompanied by a licensed adult driver that is over 21 years old in the front passenger seat. Passenger restrictions for night time driving are the same as a learner’s permit.
In New York City you may still not drive in any of the five boroughs with a Junior license under any circumstances. The only exception is 17 year olds that have completed the state approved Driver and Traffic Safety Education Course and have received their Class D adult license.
In Long Island the following restrictions apply to your Junior license, you may only drive unsupervised during the daytime hours of 5am to 9pm between employment, an approved driver’s education course, farm employment, an approved credit in a high school or evening high school course and your home. During night time hours you may only drive unsupervised between your home and all the places listed above except regular employment, without adult licensed supervision.
Full License, 17 years old
At 18 years old you will automatically be upgraded to a Senior License. However, you can apply for the Full license at 17 as long as you have completed the Driver’s Education course and provide Form MV-285.
Adult Drivers & Out of State
Out of state and Canadian license holders can surrender their out of state or country license for a New York State driver’s license as long as they pass a vision test and provide the appropriate residency, citizenship and identification documents.
Adult drivers over 18 years old in New York State must take an approved Driver’s Education course that is approximately 5 hours long before booking a road skills test that must also be passed in order to obtain a full license in the state. You must hold the learner’s permit before taking your road test, but after passing the road test, you will be eligible for the full license.