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Drivers under age 18

Below is information about the different types of licenses for drivers under age 18. Driving is an adult responsibility that you need to take seriously to keep you and others safe and protect your privilege to drive.

Iowa has a graduated driverís license (GDL) system for drivers under age 18. GDL includes three steps that provide experience to improve driving skills. These steps include: GDL Process

Step one  Instruction permit

An instruction permit is the first step on the road to a driverís license.

How do I get an instruction permit?

What can I do with this permit?

  • Drive at any time with adult supervision. Adult supervision means your parent, guardian, custodian, an immediate family member at least 21 years of age, a driver education instructor, or a person at least 25 years with written permission from your parent, guardian, or custodian. The supervising adult must possess a valid driver's license.

What can't I do with this permit?

  • Drive without adult supervision.
  • Use a cell phone, smartphone, tablet, or other electronic communication or entertainment device while driving. This doesn’t apply to equipment permanently installed in your vehicle.
  • Carry more passengers than the number of seatbelts in your vehicle, even when driving with adult supervision.

How do I move to the next step: an intermediate license?

  • Be at least 16 years old.
  • Complete an Iowa-approved driver education course.
  • Must hold an instruction permit for at least 12 consecutive months and maintain a clean driving record for at least six consecutive months immediately before applying for an intermediate license.
  • Your parent or guardian must provide written consent. Either in-person at a driver’s license issuance site or complete the Parent’s/Guardian’s Written Consent Form (form 430018).
  • Complete 20 hours of supervised driving in addition to any driving you completed in driver’s education. At least two of those hours must be between sunset and sunrise.

What if I mess up?

Your permit may be suspended if you are convicted of a moving traffic violation (examples include, but are not limited to, speeding, reckless driving, failure to wear seat belt), violate any of the restrictions on your permit, or are involved in a crash you caused or contributed to.
  • First conviction, violation, or crash: Your permit may be suspended or you may receive a safety advisory letter.
  • Second conviction, violation, or crash: Your permit will be suspended for 30 days.
Any time you have a conviction, violation, or crash your six-month period to have a clean driving record will start over.†Any time your license is suspended or revoked, your 12-month period to hold an instruction permit will start over.

Minor School License (optional)  Minor school license (optional)

Driving yourself to school is an adult responsibility that you need to take seriously to keep you and others safe and protect your privilege to drive.

How do I get a minor school license?

  • Be at least 14 and a half years old.
  • Complete an Iowa-approved driver education course.
  • Have had an instruction permit and a clean driving record for at least six consecutive months immediately before applying for your minor school license.
  • Live one mile or more from the school you are enrolled in, unless a special need exists. If you have more than one residence, where you live is the location you reside the majority of the time.
  • You must have your school superintendent, principal, or school board chair AND your parent or guardian sign an Affidavit for School License (form 30021) available at any driver’s license issuance site.
  • Along with providing your completed Affidavit for School License, the driver’s license station may require you to complete a drive test.

What can I do with this license?

  • Drive without adult supervision from your home to your school or school sponsored activities using the most direct and accessible route. Activities must be within the school district you are enrolled in.
  • Drive to and from your home to the closest school bus stop between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.
  • Stop for fuel while on route or at the closest filling station off route.
  • Drive at any time with adult supervision. Adult supervision means your parent, guardian, custodian, an immediate family member at least 21 years of age, a driver education instructor, or a person at least 25 years with written permission from your parent, guardian, or custodian. The supervising adult must possess a valid driver's license.

What can't I do with this license

  • Use a cell phone, smartphone, tablet, or other electronic communication or entertainment device while driving. This doesn’t apply to equipment permanently installed in your vehicle.
  • Carry more than one minor passenger that is not a relative when driving without adult supervision. A relative means someone that is your brother, sister, step-brother, step-sister, or another minor living in your household.
  • Drive to a school district you are not enrolled in for school or school-sponsored activities, even if your school has an athletic sharing agreement with that school district.
  • Carry more passengers than the number of seat belts in your vehicle, even when driving with adult supervision.

How do I advance to the next step: an intermediate license?

  • Be at least 16 years old.
  • Must hold an instruction permit for at least 12 consecutive months and maintain a clean driving record for at least six consecutive months immediately before applying for an intermediate license. 
  • Your parent or guardian must provide written consent. Either in-person at a driver’s license issuance site or complete the Parent’s/Guardian’s Written Consent Form (form 430018).
  • Complete 20 hours of supervised driving in addition to any driving you completed in driver’s education. At least two of those hours must be between sunset and sunrise.

What if I mess up?

Your license will be suspended if you are convicted of a traffic violation (examples include, but are not limited to, speeding, reckless driving, failure to wear seatbelt), violate any of the restrictions on your license, or are involved in a crash you caused or contributed to.
  • First offense: Your license will be suspended for 30 days and you will have to pay a fine.
  • Second offense: Your license will be revoked for a year, you will have to pay a fine, and carry high risk (SR-22) insurance for two years.
Any time you have a conviction, violation, or crash your six-month period to have a clean driving record will start over.  Any time your license is suspended or revoked, your 12-month period to hold an instruction permit will start over.

May a home-schooled and dual-enrolled student get an MSL?

If the student has completed an Iowa-approved driver education course, the student is eligible for an MSL for the limited purpose of driving to the district academic program or activity that takes place a mile or more from the student's home, unless school transportation is an option. The MSL would not be valid for driving to home school academics or activities.

Is there reciprocity between Iowa and any other states so that a minor who has completed driver education in another state may get an Iowa MSL?

Iowa law requires that applicants for an Iowa MSL provide proof of satisfactory completion of an Iowa-approved course in driver education. The law does not provide for specific reciprocity with other states as program curriculum varies. However, the Iowa school district could choose to ask the non-Iowa school to send transcript information about their driver education course. If the non-Iowa school course satisfies the program requirements of an approved Iowa driver education course, then the driver education teacher and school administrator in the Iowa resident school district could choose to issue a driver education completion certificate. The Iowa DOT could then issue an MSL. The option to issue the certificate of completion would be a decision of the local school district.

Step two  Intermediate license

An intermediate license is an important step on the road to a full license. This license gives you more driving freedom and also more responsibility. Know how to keep you and others safe, and protect your privilege to drive.

How do I get an intermediate license?

  • Be at least 16 years old.
  • Complete an Iowa-approved driver education course.
  • Have had an instruction permit for one year and a clean driving record for at least six consecutive months immediately before applying for your intermediate license.
  • Your parent or guardian must provide written consent, either in-person at a driver’s license issuance site or complete the Parent’s/Guardian’s Written Consent Form (form 430018).

What can I do with this license?

  • Drive without adult supervision between 5 a.m. and 12:30 a.m.
  • Drive at any time with adult supervision. Adult supervision means your parent, guardian, custodian, an immediate family member at least 21 years of age, a driver education instructor, or a person at least 25 years with written permission from your parent, guardian, or custodian. The supervising adult must possess a valid driver's license.

What can't I do with this license

  • Drive without adult supervision between 12:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. Your parent, guardian, or custodian can complete a Waiver of Intermediate Driver's License Hour Restriction form (form 431170) to waive this restriction for school or work purposes. Once completed, the form needs to be carried in the vehicle when driving after hours.
  • Use a cell phone, smartphone, tablet, or other electronic communication or entertainment device while driving. This doesn’t apply to equipment permanently installed in your vehicle.
  • If the back of your license says you have a passenger restriction, for the first six months you have your intermediate license, you cannot carry more than one minor passenger that is not a relative when driving without adult supervision. A relative means someone that is your brother, sister, step-brother, step-sister, or another minor living in your household.
  • Carry more passengers than the number of seat belts in your vehicle, even when driving with adult supervision.

How do I move to the final step: a full license?

  • Be at least 17 years old.
  • Keep your intermediate license for at least 12 consecutive months immediately before applying for a full license.
  • Maintain a clean driving record for at least 12 consecutive months immediately before applying for a full license.  
  • Complete 10 hours of supervised driving while holding your intermediate license. At least two of those hours must be between sunset and sunrise.
Once you turn 18 you can obtain a full license without meeting these requirements.

What if I mess up?

Your license will be suspended if you are convicted of a traffic violation (examples include, but are not limited to, speeding, reckless driving, failure to wear seat belt), violate any of the restrictions on your license, or are involved in a crash you caused or contributed to.
  • First conviction, violation, or crash: Your license may be suspended or you may receive additional restrictions. Additional restrictions may include, but are not limited to, additional passenger restrictions and additional reductions on the hours you may operate without supervision.
  • Second conviction, violation, or crash: Your license will be suspended for 30 days.
Any time you have a conviction, violation, or crash your 12-month period to have a clean driving record will start over. Any time your license is suspended or revoked, your 12 month period to hold an intermediate license will start over.

Step three  Full license

  • Available at age 17
  • Must meet all conditions of intermediate license
  • Written approval of parent/guardian
  • Full driving privileges with no restrictions
  • For drivers under age 18 or 21, the license will have the words "under eighteen" or "under twenty-one"

Out-of-state minor licensing requirements

Intermediate license

  • The minor must be at least 16 years of age.
  • The minor must have held an instruction permit or comparable intermediate license in the previous state for 12 consecutive months immediately preceding the application for an Iowa license.
  • The minor must have completed an approved course in driver education. Minors who have completed driver education at an out-of-state school may be eligible to obtain a certificate of successful completion from an Iowa school. Such students should contact an Iowa school for consideration toward the issuance of an Iowa certificate based on the out-of-state driver education completion. Out-of-state programs must meet Iowa’s requirements.
  • The minor’s driving record must be free of contributive accidents and for moving violations for six months.
  • Written approval of parent/guardian.
  • Minor must have met the required supervised driving time (20 hours, two hours between sunset and sunrise).

Full privilege license

  • The minor must be at least 17 years of age.
  • Minor must have held a full privilege license or comparable intermediate license in the previous state for 12 consecutive months immediately preceding the application for an Iowa license.
  • The minor must have completed an approved course in driver education.
  • The minor’s driving record must be free of contributive accidents and for moving violations for the 12 months immediately preceding application for the Iowa license.
  • Written approval of parent/guardian.
  • Minor must have met the required supervised driving time (10 hours, two hours between sunset and sunrise).