What does the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) require for minors to apply for their driver license?

California requires all new teen drivers between 15 ½ and 17 ½ to follow a three-step process in order to obtain their driver licenses. If you are at least 17½ years old, you may obtain a permit without completing driver education or driver training. However, you cannot get a driver license before you are 18 years old.

For teens between the ages of 15 and 17-1/2, they must complete 30 hours of classroom or online driver education.

Upon completion of step 1, teens may take their "Provisional Permit" test at the DMV.

After receiving their "Provisional Permit," teens must enroll in and complete a minimum of six (6) hours of professional Behind the Wheel (BTW) driver training. In order to take the driver license test, they must complete 50 hours of driving with the supervision of a parent or guardian, an adult over 25 years of age or with a licensed, professional driving instructor. 10 of the hours must occur at night. All supervising drivers must have a current California driver license.

What is the difference between a "provisional permit" and a "provisional license"?

A "provisional permit" is what the DMV issues after your teen completes 30 hours of online or classroom driver education and passes the DMV knowledge exam. Your teen may now begin driving while supervised by a California licensed driver 25 years or older. *IMPORTANT – your teen MUST have 2 hours of professional BTW training BEFORE they can legally drive on public roadways. Yes, that means they cannot drive home from the DMV after receiving their permit. The provisional is not legal or valid until it is signed by a professional instructor.

The provisional permit is valid for one year. Your teen is eligible to take their driver license test once they have had their permit for at least 6 months, have completed 6 hours of BTW professional instruction and a minimum of 50 hours of additional supervised practice with a California licensed driver 25 years or older. 10 of the hours must take place during night. O.C.T. Driving Academy strongly encourages all new drivers to have a minimum of 100 hours BTW practice before they take their drive test.

A "provisional license" is for teens who have passed their driver license test. A provisional license is issued to teens under the age of 18 who must obey the following restrictions:

  • For the first 12 months (or until the driver reaches his or her 18th birthday), no passengers under the age of 20 are allowed in the provisional license holder's vehicle unless a licensed driver age 25 or older is present.

  • For the first 12 months, the new driver needs to be accompanied by a licensed driver 25 years of age or older if teenager is driving between the hours of 11 P.M. and 5 A.M.

  • It is against the law for a minor to use a cell phone or electronic wireless communications device while driving. Do not answer calls or send/respond to text messages.

  • Exceptions: You may use a cell phone only to contact law enforcement, a health care provider, the fire department, or another emergency entity in an emergency situation when driving.

    What does the DMV require if I am older than 17 ½? What if I am 18?

    If you are at least 17½ years old, you may obtain a permit without completing driver education or driver training, however, you cannot get a driver license before you are 18 years old.

    California does not require adults over the age of 18 to enroll in driving lessons. However, new drivers between the ages of 16 through 21 are considered "high risk" drivers and will more likely be involved in a collision or receive traffic violations, especially without professional instruction.

    Not only will professional instruction teach you the skills you need to be a competent driver, it will also help you learn the skills required to pass your drive test. We strongly encourage and highly recommend lessons to those of you between 17½ and 21 years old who will be new to California's roadways.

    Whatever your goals, our professionally instructed lessons will ensure you have the necessary basic driving skills, the road skills required by the DMV to pass your drive test and the essential defensive driving skills to be a safe driver in California.

    Does O.C.T. Driving Academy teach adult and senior drivers?

    We love to work with drivers of all ages. There is always something to learn and we look forward to teaching you basic skills as a new driver or brushing up on older skills.

    Why should I take online driver education with O.C.T. Driving Academy?

    Our 30-hour online driver education program is unique in that it automatically and electronically sends us your completion certificate. There is no wait time for it to be processed and sent via USPS.

    Do I need my own car to take BTW lessons?

    No! O.C.T. Driving Academy has a fleet of Dodge Chargers outfitted with the required equipment to teach you safely. Our fleet has a passenger side brake installed to assist you in case of emergency. We also have forward/rear facing dash cameras with audio recording for the safety and transparency of both the student and instructor. In addition, our cars have GPS monitoring so that you can review your lesson route whenever you want! Our cars are clearly identifiable as driving school/student drivers which encourages other drivers to give you some extra time and space that you will need as you learn to drive.

    What skills will I learn during my BTW lessons?

    You will start off learning basic skills such as braking, steering and making turns in an empty parking lot. You will progress to street driving, including various types of intersections, lane changes and parking. By Stage 4, you will learn to merge on/off the freeway and be well on your way to passing your driver license test.

    The student will receive a written evaluation of skills learned with items to review and practice at the end of each lesson. The evaluations are an excellent source of information for parents when supervising their teen's driving. The information is also electronically entered in the student's online portal for reference when needed.

    How do I schedule my drive lessons?

    Once you register, you will receive an email with your receipt detailing how to schedule all services. It is best to register online, but you can also do this in-person at our "shop" located at 999 Corporate Drive #148, Ladera Ranch or via the telephone at (800)-304-4849.

    We offer several different driving lesson packages and bundles, including single lessons to target necessary skills. You can find these listed in our "Behind the Wheel" section.

    For the 6-Hour Behind the Wheel lesson package, plan to have your first lesson, Stage 1, soon after you are issued your Provisional Permit. Not only will your permit be validated by your instructor, you will learn the very basics of operating a car – from smooth, controlled braking to staying centered in your lane and to practicing multitasking throughout the driving process. We recommend that you complete 5-10 hours of supervised driving to practice the skills taught in the first lesson before scheduling your second lesson.

    Stage 2 will be a 1-hour lesson to review the basic skills covered in Stage 1 and to strengthen and challenge those skills with more advanced driving conditions.

    Stage 3 (1-hour) will, again, review some basic driving skills but will focus on different types of parking. This lesson should occur within 1 month of your second lesson, usually early in the 3rd month of your permit training. We will cover different types of parking lots, up/downhill parking techniques as well as parallel parking.

    Stage 4 (1-hour) focuses on freeway driving, so schedule this lesson once you are confident driving on busier roads and changing lanes at higher speeds. We recommend this lesson toward the end of month four.

    Stage 5 (1-hour) should be scheduled at least 2 weeks before your drive test. We will go over what is required for your test, brush up on any "bad habits" you might have learned along the way and prepare you for what is expected in the future.

    How do I cancel or reschedule my drive lesson?

    Log in to your student portal and access your currently scheduling lessons. Your portal is designed to keep your lessons organized, buy an extra lesson or even change your pick up location. You can also call (800)-304-4849. Be mindful of our 24-hour late cancellation fee!

    Is there a late cancellation fee or no-show fee if I miss a lesson?

    Yes, unfortunately. Lessons that are cancelled within 24-hours or missed lessons still require that we pay our instructors for their time. If you cancel within 24-hours, the fee is $50. If you "no-show" for your lesson, the fee is $100. All fees must be paid prior to scheduling your next lesson.

    What is the registration fee?

    The $9.95 registration fee covers DMV certification and administrative processing.

    Can I do my lessons back-to-back so I can get my license faster?

    New drivers are learning lifelong safe and defensive driving skills. Everyone's safety depends on the competency and skills of the drivers around them. You cannot become excellent at anything with only a few hours of training - it takes practice, practice, practice. Our training and experience led to the development of our program and it works! We value your trust to keep your teen safe and we only want to produce skilled, safe and defensive drivers. Therefore, we will only vary from our proven curriculum in emergency situations.

    How will the DMV know I completed 6-hours BTW?

    Your instructor will issue a "gold" Certificate of Completion of Behind the Wheel Training upon completing Stage 5. You must take this certificate with you to your DMV Drive test, along with your signed permit, current registration and insurance for the vehicle you are using for your test and a legally licensed adult 25 years or older. See the DMV requirements (found on our Resources page), before you head out to take your test. If you lose/misplace your gold certificate, O.C.T. Driving Academy can issue you a replacement for $35.

    Can the instructor teach me the DMV test route?

    The DMV does not allow instructors to "teach the drive route" in preparation for the drive test. The DMV does not allow driving school vehicles to be around the DMV or designated drive route areas.

    Can I ride along with my teen during their driving lesson?

    We do not allow anyone to accompany the student and instructor during a lesson. Please trust in our professional instructors to teach and share their knowledge and experience. By choosing O.C.T. Driving Academy, you have hired excellence and we are vested in keeping your teen safe. Our cars are equipped with GPS and forward/rear facing dash cameras with recorded audio. The information is accessible in your teen's O.C.T. online portal.

    There is one exception to the rule - A second instructor will, at times, be in an observatory role. They will be seated in the backseat and remain in an observational role ONLY so as not to confuse the student or give contradictory instructions. This will be done when training a new instructor or reviewing an instructor's teaching skills. If this is a concern, please let us know.

    May we purchase extra lessons?

    Yes, we offer extra lessons to help with any areas still requiring extra instruction and fine tuning. While driving comes naturally to some, it is not always the case for others. We have created our standard lesson structure to keep fatigue low, decrease overstimulation while focusing on a smaller number of skill sets per stage. With that in mind, your teen needs to progress at their own pace. The end goal? To develop a confident and well-rounded driver.

    Also, we know how busy life can get. Sometimes it's difficult for you to get together with your teen for their practice driving. Or, maybe there is struggle between parent/student and it is easier to have an instructor "keep the peace." As parents ourselves, we understand the challenges of raising teenagers. We are determined to help you create a new driver who is prepared and ready to tackle this next stage in their lives. Want to book an extra lesson now?

    Can we teach teens with learning disabilities to drive?

    Our instructors are willing and able to work with teens who face learning disabilities. We appreciate knowing the challenges ahead of time so that we can choose the best fit for an instructor. Sometimes, parents and teens don't want to discuss the challenges. We encourage you to let us know - let us talk about it together so we can get a better understanding of how we can work together. We will provide you with a candid evaluation to ensure your teen's safety as well as other people on the road.

    Have our instructors had background and security checks?

    The DMV and State law requires all driving instructors undergo a background check, LiveScan fingerprinting, a medical clearance and pass a knowledge exam before they are issued a license to be a driving instructor. Unfortunately, not all schools follow these laws. At O.C.T. Driving Academy, we only hire active or former law enforcement/first responders. Every one of our instructors will be licensed and authorized by the DMV. Our instructor's licenses are posted in our office for transparency. We have based our entire business model on believing the best instructors are those who have spent a career being trained in driving techniques with first-hand knowledge and experience. .

    Why does O.C.T. Driving Academy charge more than other drive schools for 6-hour BTW lessons?

    While other driving schools teach the bare minimum skills focused only on passing the DMV drive test, O.C.T. Driving Academy has set a new standard for the industry. We saw a huge void between students, instructors and quality drive lessons. It's the main reason we are here, today. From training our instructors to developing lesson plans and evaluating what we believe is a stronger learning platform, we incorporated technology, transparency and expertise to create the industry best drive school for your teen. We teach skills that will last a lifetime.

    How do I cancel a lesson after-hours?

    We understand things come up and life has to be flexible. You can call (800)-304-4849 to reschedule. We check our voicemail regularly. There will be a $50 charge for lessons cancelled within 24 hours of the lesson start time – this covers the instructor's change in schedule and any impact it might have on scheduling other students. The $50 fee will need to be paid prior to rescheduling the cancelled lesson.

    What if I just moved to California and I have a provisional permit from another state?

    It depends on a few different factors. Please review the DMV Minors Permit and License guide so you can verify how it applies to you.

    What do I do now that I have a provisional permit?

    Your permit is not valid until you begin driver training. Your instructor will sign the permit to validate it. You may not drive on public roadways until you have had 2 hours of professional instruction

    You must practice with a licensed California driver: parent, guardian, driving instructor, spouse, or adult 25 years old or older.

    The person must sit close enough to you to take control of the vehicle at any time.

    A provisional permit does not allow you to drive alone at any time, not even to a DMV field office to take a driving test.

    You must complete 6 hours of BTW professional instruction, have your permit for at least 6 months, practice for a total of 50 hours (10 of which must be at night) before you can take your drive test.