The process of getting a Texas drivers license can seem complicated. But we’re going to do our best to make it all clear and easy to understand.
It begins with two questions:
- Do you have or have you ever had a driver license before?
- How old are you?
Based on your answers, there may be are different steps to follow and requirements to meet.
Driver Education and In-Car Training
Getting a Texas driver license may or may not require driver education classes and behind-the-wheel driver training. What is required depends on how old you are.
Texas law divides prospective drivers into three groups by age.
Steps in Getting a Texas Drivers License
Once you’ve learned how to drive safely and legally (and satisfied the law’s requirements), now it’s time to visit your local Texas of Department of Public Safety office and actually get your license.
The exact details of getting a license involve a lot of steps, but the basics boil down to just five things.
- the Impact Texas Drivers program (which you should complete before taking your application to the DPS)
- the Knowledge Test
- the Driving Test
- the Vision Test
- Paperwork requirements
The Impact Texas Drivers Program
Since 2015 new drivers under 25 are required to complete the Impact Texas Drivers Program. It was created to demonstrate the dangers of distracted driving to teenage drivers, because every year statistics show that distracted driving contributes to many crashes and that a disproportionately high number of crashes involve teen drivers.
The program consists of a one-hour video for people who have completed a 6-hour Adult Driver Education course (like this one) or a two-hour video for anyone who has completed a 32-hour Teen Driver Education course.
All of these videos are available for free online at Impact Texas Drivers. Students can register online, watch the video, then print a certificate showing completion of this requirement. This course is only valid for 90 days, so students should watch this video within less than three months of taking the Driving Test.
A third Impact Texas Drivers video for drivers 25 and older is in the works.
The Knowledge Test
This is the DMV’s official test of driving laws and procedures, the one that many people still call “the written test,” even though nothing is written anymore. At most DPS locations, this test is taken using a computer touch screen to answer multiple-choice questions.
If you are between 18 and 25 years old, completing a 6-hour course like this is required before you will be allowed to take the Knowledge Test. There is a longer 32-hour course for drivers who are 16 or 17, though new drivers 18 to 25 have the option of taking the longer course if they want. When it comes to driving knowing more is never a bad idea.
New drivers who are 26 or older are not required to complete any official driving course before taking the Knowledge Test, but of course taking either a 6-hour or 32-hour course will improve their chances of the passing the Knowledge Test to get their license.
The Driving Test
This is the test of a new driver’s ability to actually make a vehicle do what they want. It demonstrates both a driver’s skill in maneuvering a car or truck and their ability to operate a vehicle according to the laws that govern driving.
The last thing any of us needs are more drivers on the road who don’t really know what they’re doing.
Training to pass the Driving Test is usually called in-car or behind-the-wheel training.
44 hours of in-car training is required for new drivers who are 16 or 17. New drivers 18 and older are not required to have this in-car training, though it is encouraged. The last thing any of us needs are more drivers who don’t really know what they’re doing.
If you are at all insecure about your own driving ability, an in-car training course is a great idea. One study after another shows that more experience is what makes one driver safer than another.
The Vision Test
This is a quick exam conducted at the DPS office. Basically look into a machine and read off what you can see there to the person conducting the test. This is a simple step taken to make sure that new drivers can see well enough to drive safely.
If your vision is only good enough if you are wearing glasses or contact lenses, there will be a restriction printed on your license indicating that.
Anyone who does not pass the DMV’s vision test may be referred to an eye doctor for a second, more thorough exam.
Most people taking this course are rather young, so if you haven’t learned this already, we might as well be the ones to tell you: if the government is involved with something, there is going to be paperwork.
In the case of getting a license, most of the paperwork is fairly common sense things.
- an application to get a license (Print this out online and complete it before going to the DPS.)
- proof you are who you say you are
- verification that you live in Texas and have a legal right to do so
- proof that your vehicle is registered and insured (or proving that you don’t own a vehicle)
All the documents you may need are listed in a document from the Texas DPS called Guide for First Time Driver License/ID Applicants.
Beyond paperwork like this, new drivers have to be photographed and submit scans of their signature and thumbprints.
For most of us, a driver license isn’t just proof that we’ve earned the privilege of driving. It’s also the most basic form of legal identification. Photos, thumbprints, and signatures just make that identification more secure.
A Driver License is a Big Responsibility
Whichever route you take toward getting your Texas driver license, we want to tell you three things.
Firstly, congratulations. Getting a driver license is a big deal for most people. It’s not easy, and it shouldn’t be, because there is a lot to know to be a safe driver.
Secondly, always remember that driving is a privilege that you earn by proving you can handle it. And it’s a privilege that can be taken away. To get a license, you first have to prove that you can handle a vehicle safely and according to the rules. But if your actual driving proves something less, that license can be taken away.
Finally, becoming a driver is taking on a big responsibility. When you drive, you owe it to yourself, your passengers, and all the other people on the road — other drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, pedestrians, construction people, etc — to make things as safe and problem-free as possible.
Some of the people at Comedy Guys Defensive Driving have been teaching Texas driving safety classes for almost thirty years. It’s what we do every day, both in our live classes and with our easy and fun online course. And we’ve seen a lot of people who didn’t take the responsibility of driving seriously enough.
We really don’t need any more drivers like that sharing our roads.