Learning to drive is an exciting stop on the road to adulthood. It brings all kinds of new freedoms, but it's also important to note that teen drivers are at a higher risk of being involved in an accident than any other age group. For that reason, Michigan has instituted a graduated driver licensing system. Here are the steps you'll need to follow to get your Michigan drivers license.
At 14 years and 8 months, you're old enough to begin your training as a new Michigan driver. Before you can get your level 1 license (the equivalent of a learner's permit), you must complete segment 1 of drivers ed, which consists of:
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- At least 24 hours of classroom learning
- Six or more hours of behind-the-wheel instruction
- Four hours of driving observation
- A written exam on Michigan's traffic laws and regulations
After you've completed segment 1, you can visit your local branch of the Secretary of State to get your level 1 license. Just be sure to bring along the necessary ID documents.
With your level 1 license, you're allowed to practice driving as long as you're with a licensed adult who is 21 or older.
The next step toward getting your Michigan drivers license is completing segment 2, but there are a couple requirements you'll need to meet first:
- You must have held you level 1 license for at least three consecutive months
- You must have completed at least 30 hours of parent-supervised driving practice, including at least 2 hours at night
Segment 2 consists of at least six hours of instruction. After that, it's time to start focusing on passing your road skills test.
Once you're 16, you're old enough to apply for your level 2 license. Before you can apply, however, you must have completed segments 1 and 2 of driver's education, and logged an additional 50 hours of behind-the-wheel practice, including at least 10 at night.
Once you meet those standards, it's time to visit an independently-operated testing center to show off your driving abilities. You'll need to bring a vehicle to use for the exam, and it must be registered and insured.
After a vehicle inspection, your examiner will instruct you to demonstrate a variety of maneuvers both on a closed course and on operational roads. These may include:
- Parallel parking and backing
- Stopping at a specific point
- Approaching intersections and turning
- Changing lanes and approaching curves
The state offers a study guide to help you prepare for the test. The same document also includes a driving log that you should use to track your practice hours. You'll need to bring the completed log to your test appointment.
After you pass your road skills exam, you'll receive your level 2 license.
Once you've received you level 2 license, you can start driving on your own. There are, however, certain rules you'll need to follow if you want to hold on to that newfound freedom. With your level 2 license, you cannot:
- Use a cell phone while driving
- Drive between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
- Drive with more than one passenger who is under 18
There are a number of exceptions to rules no. 2 and 3, so be sure to familiarize yourself with them.
Once you're 17 and you've completed at least six months of safe driving with your level 2 license, you'll be upgraded to a level 3 or unrestricted Michigan drivers license.
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Michigan Level 1 License and Temporary Permit Application
Depending on your age, the Michigan Secretary of State may issue you either with a level 1 drivers license, if you are under 18 years of age, or with a temporary instruction permit, if you are already 18 years old or older. Application procedures for these documents vary greatly, since teenagers who apply for a Michigan level 1 license are required to meet all graduated license requirements while older applicants can go through a simplified application procedure when they are applying for a Michigan temporary instruction permit.
Graduated Drivers License Program
The graduated license program in Michigan is rather extensive and complex, it contains two separate segments of Michigan drivers education and three different levels of driver licenses. Although the main purpose of the Michigan graduate driver's license program is to ensure the safety of teenage drivers, one's left with the impression that it was designed mostly to discourage anyone from applying for a learners permit or drivers license before the age of 18.
Drivers education classes are mandatory only to those who apply for a Michigan level 1 driver's license before the age of 18. Everyone is is encouraged to take drivers ed classes, but are not mandated to do so.
Michigan drivers education classes are divided into two segments. A segment 1 driver's ed class contains at least 24 hours of classroom time, 6 hours of behind the wheel instruction and 4 hours of in-car observation. You can sign up for the class if you are at least 14 years, 6 months old. Once you complete the program, you are issued with a green certificate of completion that must be presented at the SOS when you submit your application for a level 1 Michigan drivers license. You also take a drivers permit test as part of the program.
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Segment 2 drivers education classes are taken by those who already hold a level one license and would like to take a Michigan driving test to upgrade to a level 2 license. The course consist of at least six hours of classroom instruction, while driving lessons are optional. Upon completion of the course, you receive a white certificate of completion.
In order for SOS representatives to be able to decide whether you are fit to drive, you will have to take a number of tests. You will also be required to fill in a health questionnaire when you submit your application for a Michigan temporary permit or a level one license.
Seeing well is very important when you are operating a moving vehicle, so you will be required that you meet minimum vision standards before you are issued with a license to get behind the wheel. If corrective lenses, such as glasses or contact lenses, are needed to pass the test, your driver’s license will show you must wear them while driving. If you fail the vision test, your eye-care specialist must complete a vision statement documenting that you meet the vision standards.
In certain cases, your temporary permit or drivers license may be marked with a limitation, such as “daylight driving only”. These restrictions will be based on your vision test results.
Temporary Instruction Permit Test
One of the key steps in the process of applying for a Michigan temporary instruction permit is taking a Michigan temporary permit test. The test covers the state driving rules and safe driving practices and you can take it at any SOS office without making any prior appointments. If you would like to prepare for the permit test, go ahead and grab a copy of Michigan's drivers handbook. Once you read everything in the book, you may test yourself with some Michigan temporary permit practice tests.
If you are applying for a Michigan level one license, you take the permit test as part of your segment one drivers education course, so you don't need to worry about this test.
The following paperwork will be required when you submit your application for a Michigan temporary instruction permit or a level one driver's license at the SOS.
- Social Security Number
- proof of citizenship or legal presence
- proof of identity
- proof of Michigan residency
- a green drivers education certificate (if you are applying for a level 1 license)
All level one driver's license applicants must bring a parent or a legal guardian so sign the application for a learners permit at the SOS. Teenagers are not authorized to be licensed in Michigan without parental consent.
Applying for a Level 1 Drivers License - Under 18 Years of Age
The minimum age for applying for a Michigan level 1 driver's license is 14 years, 9 months. You must already complete a segment one drivers education course prior to this stage. When you complete a drivers education class and receive your white certificate of completion, you are good to visit an SOS office and file your application for a driver license. Make sure to bring all of the required paperwork to the office so your application is not rejected. While at the SOS, you will also have to take a vision exam. If you pass the vision test and your paperwork checks out, you are issued with a level one drivers license.
Applying for a Temporary Instruction Permit - 18 Years of Age and Older
If you are at least 18 years of age, graduated license rules do not concern you and you can go ahead and apply for a Michigan temporary instruction permit. Gather all of the paperwork, then visit a local SOS office and take your temporary instruction permit test. No appointments are necessary for taking the test, you can just walk in any time during regular business hours. If you pass the test, you are issued with a Michigan temporary instruction permit on the spot.
Operating Under a Level One License
Even though it is called a level 1 drivers license, it's really more like a learners permit and it comes with numerous restrictions. For example, you are not allowed to drive alone and must have a licensed driver at least 21 years of age or a parent accompany you whenever you are driving (mind you, your accompanying parent must hold a valid unrestricted Michigan drivers license). You must hold your level one license for at least six months before you can go ahead and apply for a Michigan drivers license. At the time when you submit your application for a level two license, you will be required to take a Michigan driving test, so make sure to practice driving as much as you can.
Operating Under a Temporary Instruction Permit
Remember that you were issued with a temporary instruction permit for the purpose of practicing driving. You must hold a Michigan temporary permit for at least 30 days before you can apply for a drivers license and you need to observe all Michigan temporary permit restrictions during this period. Failure to do so may result in your driving privilege being revoked.