Getting a Driver’s License

Motor vehicle laws differ by state but there is a general process you can follow as a guide to getting your driver’s license in the United States.

  • Take the written test
    • Before you can take the driving portion of the test, you must take a written test that includes multiple choice questions regarding driving rules and regulations within a state. Some of these questions may include fine amounts for certain violations or the recommended safe distance you should keep between other vehicles.
    • Once you’ve passed the written test, you will be granted a temporary driver’s permit which lets you legally get on the road to practice and learn how to drive.
  • Drive on the roads legally with a learner’s permit
    • Many people are taught by their family members or friends who have a driver’s license already. However, it may be worth hiring a licensed driving instructor or taking guided courses from a company.
    • Most states require some sort of structured driver’s education course for driver’s under the age of 18. Please check with your local department of motor vehicles to check for the latest requirements.

What you can do with a Driver’s License

Fly Domestically

The TSA permits Driver’s Licenses and state IDs as eligible identification in order to get through airport security. This is a great way to travel within the United States or to any U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico without having to bring along your passport.

Passports are much harder to replace if lost so Driver’s Licenses are a great alternative.

Use as Form of Identification

Since social security numbers in the United States are tied to sensitive information, it is uncommon to openly share that with companies. Instead, you can use your driver’s license to confirm your identity since it has a recent photo of you. Driver’s licenses have expiration dates to ensure people take up to date photos that represent them accurately. Some examples of when you can use your driver’s license has a form of identification is during large purchases with your credit card or when picking up certified mail at the post office.

Open a Bank Account

Banks will require some proof of identification in addition to your social security number. American banks have many guarantees backed by the federal government which is why they must ensure that you are who you say you are. Using your driver’s license is a way to prove that. However, passports also count as a government issued ID.

When do you need a Driver’s License

Drive a Car

The original purpose of a driver’s license was to show proof that you’ve gone through the necessary checks to be a safe driver. It is important that if your license is close to expiring, that you go to the department of motor vehicles to get it renewed. Driving without a license is a big offence and could lead to heavy fines or to your license getting rescinded. The United States wants to ensure the roads are safe for its citizens and visitors alike so any sort of endangerment to others is taken very seriously.

Purchase Restricted Items

Driver’s licenses display the birth date of the card holder. They are used commonly to get into clubs or to purchase alcohol for those aged 21 or older and cigarettes for those 18 and older. There are state specific laws around things like cold medicine sales that may also require proof of age during a purchase. The most prevalent times when your ID or driver’s license is asked for will probably be when ordering or purchasing alcohol. Some states or cities have very heavy consequences for businesses who do not check for the minimum age requirements.