Montana’s Graduated Driver Licensing Law
Teen driver errors lead to 95 per cent of serious crashes. New drivers need a lot of practice to gain enough experience to handle daily driving hazards and unexpected situations. Teens will show the greatest improvement in the first 1,000 to 5,000 miles of driving.
GDL is evidence-based and reduces crash risk by gradually introducing young drivers to independent driving and restricting passengers and night driving.
Montana's graduated driver licensing (GDL) law creates a three-step program that reduces the risk while new drivers under age 18 develop and improve their driving skills. Teens still get to drive—with supervision--and gradually work up to driving on their own.
Driver education begins the process of learning to drive, and teens need many, many hours of practice to become safe, competent drivers.
When teens are enrolled in a state-approved driver education class in one of Montana’s high schools, they can begin driving at the age of 15, after six months and 50 hours of supervised practice required in Step 1 of the GDL.
NEW TeenDrivingPlan Parent Guide from CHOP: The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Details and download instructions here.
KEYS Parent - Teen Driver Education Homework
Graduated Driver Licensing Three-Step Program
Click the tabs below to learn more about the GDL steps that gradually introduce the teen driver to more responsible, independent driving.
GDL Step 1: Learner License
TEEN DRIVERS TAKING DRIVER EDUCATION
Teens enrolled in a state-approved traffic education program in a Montana high school can obtain a traffic education learner license (TELL) at age 14.5 or older once they have passed the driver’s license knowledge exam and vision test. Parents and/or guardians can attend a parent meeting as part of the driver’s education course to learn about their required role in the GDL process.
The GDL six-month supervised driving period begins when the driver education instructor starts driving with students. The TELL is issued by most traffic education programs in Montana. It is good for one year and allows the teen to drive with a parent or legal guardian, putting in at least 50 hours behind the wheel—with 10 at night--during the six-month phase.
Contact your local school district to find a state-approved driver education course in your community. You can also search for state-approved school-based traffic education programs on the Traffic Education web page.
Online driver education courses are not approved by the State of Montana.
TEEN DRIVERS NOT TAKING DRIVER EDUCATION
Teen drivers who are not enrolled in or have not completed driver’s education in a state-approved program must wait until they are age 16 to obtain their TELL. They will need to visit their local Motor Vehicle Division exam stationto take and pass the written driver exam and vision test, and obtain parental consent for their Learner License.
All new drivers under age 18 require a parent/legal guardian to sign the license application. Whoever signs is responsible for any financial liability in the event of a vehicle collision.
Parents should consult with their auto insurance agent to find out what kind of coverage is needed while their teen is learning to drive and after the teen becomes a licensed driver.
1. Remain calm and focused – take deep breaths and try to stay relaxed.
2. Making mistakes is part of learning. Try to be patient and encouraging. 3. Practice driving skills, but also stress safety: two eyes scanning the road and two hands on the wheel at all times. Everyone in the car buckled every trip, every time.
WHO CAN SUPERVISE PRACTICE?
TEP - Traffic Education Permit: Students may drive only with driver education teacher during class. This begins the required six months of GDL-supervised practice.
TELL - Traffic Education Learner's License: A licensed parent/legal guardian or driver education teacher must drive with teens who have a TELL permit.
Learner License: If parents/legal guardians want their student to drive with other licensed adults during the GDL permit phase, students must obtain a Learner License from the Driver Exam Office.
HOW LONG: Minimum of six months – longer if there are any traffic violations or any alcohol/drug offenses. The TELL is valid for one year. Keep a log to record the time and different skills practiced. Download an app for your phone or the GDL Parent - Teen Driving Log to keep in the vehicle.
PRACTICE DRIVING: Teens should practice, practice, practice. It will take about two hours per week for six months to complete 50 hours of practice driving, but more practice is always better. Only drive when you are both ready, in the mood, and have plenty of time.
In the beginning, practice in daylight and good weather. Start out in an empty parking lot or a low-traffic road to practice turning, backing up, scanning for hazards, and easing to a complete stop. Use everyday trips and drive in varied weather and road conditions. Drive to sports practice and the grocery store to practice different skills including merging, changing lanes and parking. Limit passengers: it's best to practice driving with just you and your teen.
- Minimum of 50 hours of supervised driving - 10 hours must be at night
- Each occupant must wear a seat belt. If you are pulled over and you aren't wearing your seat belt, you can get a ticket and an extended time with GDL Restrictions.
- Only a licensed parent or guardian in the front seat can supervise driving. (Note: If a parent/guardian wants a teen to drive with other adults during the GDL permit phase, an Learner License must be obtained from the Driver Exam Office.)
- The teen driver must remain free from traffic violations and alcohol/drug offenses.
Visit the OPI’s Parents/Teens Resources for great tips on helping your teen become a safe and careful driver.
GDL Step 2 - Restricted License: One Year
WHEN: The GDL Restricted License allows teens to drive alone after successful completion of Step 1 – Learner License, and parent/guardian certification of no alcohol/drug or traffic offenses, and 50 hours of supervised driving including 10 at night.
WHERE: Visit a local Driver Exam Station to take and pass the driving exam. Follow instructions to apply for a First-Year Restricted License.
HOW LONG: One year. Teens need time to become familiar with driving solo, without an adult. During this most dangerous time for teen drivers, important restrictions apply. Certain driving conditions are especially high risk for teen drivers including darkness, high speeds, passengers, adverse weather, traffic, and road conditions. Supervise teenager’s driving under high-risk conditions to be sure that they are able to handle them before allowing independent driving under these conditions. Continue to drive with your teen even after they have their driver license.
Night-driving Restrictions Teens may not drive between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. The reason for this is simple. Young drivers face the highest risk of being involved in a fatal or injury crash at night. Exceptions to night driving restrictions include emergencies, travel to and from school, church or work, and farm-related activities.
Passenger Restrictions Teens need time to become familiar with driving without an adult and without the distraction of passengers. The risk of a fatal crash for a teen driver doubles with just one teen passenger. Each new passenger increases the risk of a fatal crash and car crashes are the leading killer of teens.
- One Passenger - For the first six months teens may drive with only one passenger who is not a family member.
- Up to Three Passengers - For the second six months teens may drive with up to three passengers who are not family members.
- Each occupant must wear a seat belt.
Step 3 - Full Privilege Driver License
WHEN: Upon successful completion of GDL Steps 1 and 2 or reaching age 18--whatever happens first.
Driving skills need practice like sports and music: competence, adaptability, judgment, and good habits grow through experience. Parents should continue to monitor, drive with, and impose consequences on teen driving even after teens have their full privilege driver license.
Remember to play it smart. There are a lot of cars out there. So drive safely – for life.
Visit the OPI’s Parents/Teens Resources for great tips on helping your teen become a safe and careful driver.
Best Practices for a Safe Teen Driver
Talk with your teen about safe driving and being a safe passenger even before they get a Learner’s License.
Be a role model and set a good example:
- Always wear a seat belt as a driver and passenger. Insist all passengers buckle up.
- Come to a complete stop at stop signs and signals. Look left, then right, then straight ahead and then left again before proceeding.
- Keep a safe following and stopping distance, with at least a 4-second space between your vehicle and others.
- Obey the posted speed limit.
- Use your turn signal for changing lanes and when turning.
- Always check mirrors and turn your head to look for traffic and obstacles before turning the steering wheel.
- Treat other drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and roadway users with courtesy.
- Avoid distractions that take your attention from the road. Ask a passenger to change the music. Pull over to the side of the road to answer your cell phone or return a text.
- Demonstrate safe and responsible driving: Always two eyes on the road, two hands on the wheel.
Parents have a very important role to play in encouraging and ensuring safe teen driving. Your influence is stronger, more immediate and long lasting than all other influences. Set rules and limits. Expect mistakes, praise your teen when they use good judgment and obey speed limits, stop signs and the GDL. Supervise teen driving under high-risk conditions. Increase driving privileges as teens gain more driving experience and show safe, responsible driving attitudes and behavior. Continue to drive with your teen even after they have their driver license.
Resources for parents driving with teens are widely available. Visit the OPI’s Parents/Teens Resources web page for more information.
Consequences, Penalties and Conviction Points
GDL Step 1 Violations - Penalty for any alcohol/drug or traffic offenses:
Supervised practice driving will be extended until teen has six months with no alcohol/drug or traffic offenses.
GDL Step 2 Violations - Penalty for any alcohol/drug or traffic offenses:
First Offense – not less than 20 hours or more than 60 hours of community service.
Second Offense – suspension of driver’s license for six months.
Parents can pull a teen's driver license if they are under age 18. (Parents don't need a specific reason and we're not kidding!)
MIP - Minor in Possession of Alcohol
Under age 21 it is illegal to possess or consume any alcoholic beverage
According to 45-5-624 of the Montana Code Annotated, MIP convictions are not recorded on an individual's Montana driving record. However, a driver license suspension resulting from an MIP conviction is permanently recorded on the offender’s driving record.
Confiscation – A driver’s license confiscation is not the same as a suspension. Confiscation is between the violator and the court. If a person with a driver license is convicted of an MIP violation, the court must confiscate the license:
- first MIP offense – 30-day confiscation
- second or subsequent MIP offense – 6-month confiscation
A violator who drives during a period of driver license confiscation may be charged with driving without a license. A violator may also be subject to additional sentencing provisions imposed by the court.
Suspension for failure to complete substance abuse course – Under Montana's MIP law, a violator who fails to complete a community-based substance abuse course may have their driver license suspended:
- first failure to complete substance abuse course – 3-month suspension
- second failure – 9-month suspension
- third or subsequent failure – 12-month suspension
Montana Driver Record / Your driving record is for life!
|Montana Driver Records
Sample Conviction Points
|Montana Code Annotated (MCA)
|No driver’s license||2 points||61-5-102|
|Other moving violations - Failure to obey stop signs and traffic signals, following too closely, improper passing||2 points||61-8-207
61-8-320 to 340
|Car insurance violations||5 points||61-6-301|
|Illegal drag racing||5 points||61-8-308|
|Hit and run (property)||4 points||61-7-107|
|Reckless driving - driving with willful and wanton disregard for safety of persons and property||5 points||61-8-301|
|Failure to stop and help or give information when involved in a crash||4 or 8 points||61-7-103
|Driving with your license suspended or revoked
Second offense penalty - vehicle may be seized
|DUI - driving while intoxicated or drugged with narcotics||10 points||61-8-401|
|Other felony when a motor vehicle is used||12 points||61-11-203|
|Seat belt violation||$20 fine||61-13-104|
|Habitual Traffic Offender|
|30 or more convictions points in 3 years
License revoked and no driver license for 3 years