OLR Research Report

December 21, 2009




By: Paul Frisman, Principal Analyst

You asked us to compare basic driver's license and motorcycle license requirements for 16- and 17-year olds.


Starting October 1, 2003, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) eliminated a separate license for operating a motorcycle, replacing it with a motorcycle endorsement on an applicant's basic license. (In this report we refer to non-commercial driver's licenses as basic licenses. By statute this basic license is a class D license.) Applicants for motorcycle endorsements therefore must first have a basic license.

There are many similarities in the requirements for 16- and 17-year-olds seeking either the basic license or a license with a motorcycle endorsement.

In each case, applicants must obtain the written consent of their parents or legal guardians. They also must obtain DMV permits: a learner's permit for the basic license, and a motorcycle training permit for the motorcycle endorsement. The permits limit the public roads on which permit holders may drive, the number of passengers they may transport, and the hours they may operate their vehicles. The learner's permit also restricts who may be a passenger in the permit holder's vehicle.


Table 1, below summarizes the requirements for 16- and 17-year-olds applying for driver's licenses and motorcycle endorsements. A more detailed narrative follows.

Table 1: Requirements for Driver's License and Motorcycle Endorsement for 16- and 17-Year-Olds

Driver's License Requirements

Motorcycle Endorsement

Obtain learner's permit after passing a vision screening test; passing a 25-question test on rules of the road; paying an $18 permit fee; and obtaining written consent of parents, foster parents, or legal guardian


Obtain driver's license by completing at least 40 hours of behind-the-wheel training and an 8-hour course on safe driving practices, including two hours of parent training, if the applicant received a learner's permit after August 1, 2008


Obtain driver's license by completing at least 20 hours of behind-the-wheel training, and an 8-hour course on safe driving practices, (two hours of parent training not required) if the applicant received a learner's permit before August 1, 2008.


Pass an additional 25-question written exam.



Additionally, applicants for motorcycle endorsement must obtain a motorcycle permit, requiring them to successfully complete a 16-question law test and a vision test; obtain a certificate of parental consent; and pay a $15 permit fee

Permit holders must successfully complete a Connecticut Rider Education Program.


Learner's Permit

Sixteen and 17-year-olds must obtain a learner's permit before getting a driver's license. Sixteen and 17-year-olds who have not had their privilege to drive suspended or revoked may apply for the permit, which allows them to drive on public highways, with certain restrictions. While driving, the permit holder must be accompanied by (1) a licensed driving instructor or (2) someone (a) who is at least 20 years old, (b) who has held a drivers license for at least four years, and (c) whose license has not been suspended in the preceding four years.

Except for active members of certified ambulance services who are in an emergency vehicle operator's course, a permit holder can only carry as a passenger a (1) driving instructor, (2) parent, or (3) legal guardian. But where (1) a permit holder is receiving behind-the-wheel instruction from a certified instructor and (2) the permit holder's parents or legal guardian give written consent, up to two additional students may be in the vehicle (Conn. Agency Regs. 14-36f-5).

To obtain the learner's permit, the applicant must (1) pass a vision screening test, (2) pass a 25-question test on motor vehicles and the rules of the road, and (3) pay an $18 permit fee. (There is a $40 fee for the vision, knowledge, and road tests). He or she also must file a certificate consenting to the issuance of the permit, signed by one or both of his or her parents, foster parents, or legal guardian.

The learner's permit expires when the permit holder obtains a driver's license or turns 18, whichever comes first (CGS 14-36 (c)).

More information on learner's permit requirements is available on the DMV website at: http://www.ct.gov/dmv/cwp/view.asp?a=805&q=244748&dmvPNavCtr=|41640|41681|#41703.

Driver's License Requirements for 16- and 17-year-olds

To obtain a driver's license, a 16- or 17-year-old applicant must have held a learner's permit and presented to DMV a certificate of successful completion of motor vehicle training (1) from a (a) public or private secondary school, (b) state vocational school, (c) licensed, DMV-approved driving school, or (2) through home instruction.

For applicants who received a learner's permit after August 1, 2008 (a “photo” permit) the training must include:

1. at least 40 hours of behind-the-wheel on-the-road instruction; and

2. an eight-hour course on safe driving practices, including at least four hours on the (a) medical, biological, and physiological effects of alcohol and drugs on motor vehicle operators, (b) dangers associated with drug and alcohol abuse, and (c) penalties for alcohol and drug-related motor vehicle violations. The eight-hour course includes two hours of parent training (see below).

Photo permit holders who learn to drive at a school must also receive 30 hours of classroom training, including the eight-hour safe driving practices course. Permit holders who receive home instruction must have 22 hours of equivalent classroom training, in addition to the eight-hour safe driving practices course conducted at a school (CGS 14-36e). The eight hour course includes a two-hour segment on the dangers of teenage driving that all permit holders must attend with their parents or legal guardians (CGS 14-36j).

A 16- or 17-year-old who completed a full driver training course from a school must have held a learner's permit for at least 120 days before applying for a license; if he or she received driving instruction through a combination of home and commercial or secondary school training, for at least 180 days.

Requirements for 16- and 17-year-olds who obtained a learner's permit before August 1, 2008 (“paper” permit) are similar, except that (1) they need only a minimum of 20 hours of behind-the-wheel on-the-road instruction and (2) there is no parent training requirement.

Effective October 1, 2009, after completing the requiring training and passing the driving skills test, all applicants must pass an additional 25-question comprehensive written examination before getting their license. There also are specific requirements for 16- and 17-year-olds from other states.

Additional information for 16- and 17-year-olds obtaining a license is available on the DMV website at http://www.ct.gov/dmv/cwp/view.asp?a=805&q=423984&dmvPNavCtr=|41640|41679|41687|#49621; http://www.ct.gov/dmv/cwp/view.asp?a=805&q=447790; and http://www.ct.gov/dmv/cwp/view.asp?a=805&q=447790.


Sixteen and 17-year-old applicants for a motorcycle endorsement must already possess a valid driver's license. DMV issues a motorcycle permit after the applicant has successfully completed a 16-question law test and a vision test. Applicants younger than 18 must also obtain a certificate of parental consent. The fee is $40 for testing and $15 for the permit.

The permit allows the applicant to operate a motorcycle for 60 days during daylight hours only. The permit holder cannot carry passengers or drive on multiple lane, limited access highways. Applicants can renew this permit for one additional 60-day period.

An applicant for a motorcycle endorsement who is younger than 18 also must successfully complete a Connecticut Rider Education Program training course conducted by (1) the Department of Transportation or (2) a firm that uses either the Motorcycle Safety Foundation curriculum or another DMV-approved curriculum.

The commissioner may issue a motorcycle endorsement that is unlimited or contains limits the commissioner believes advisable. By law, a 16- or 17-year-old driver with a motorcycle endorsement cannot carry a passenger for six months after receiving the endorsement (CGS 14-36g (5)). Motorcycle permit holders of any age and motorcycle endorsement holders and passengers under 18 must wear protective headgear (CGS 14 – 289g).

More information on DMV's motorcycle endorsements, permits, and licenses is available on-line at http://www.ct.gov/dmv/cwp/view.asp?a=805&Q=244754&dmvPNavCtr=|28100|#28110 and http://www.ct.gov/dmv/cwp/view.asp?a=801&Q=244516&dmvPNavCtr=|#39296. Information on the Connecticut Rider Education Program is available at: http://www.ct.gov/dot/cwp/view.asp?Q=259456.


The following provisions apply to 16- and 17-year-olds who receive a driver's license on and after August 1, 2008.

For six months after receiving a license a 16- or 17-year old driver can transport only (1) his or her parents or legal guardian, at least one of whom has a valid license, (2) one DMV-licensed driving instructor, or (3) one person at least 20-years-old, who has held a license for at least four years and has not had it suspended in that time.

For the period beginning six months and ending one year from the issuance of the license, a 16- or 17-year-old driver can, in addition to the people listed above, transport other members of his or her immediate family. But 16- and 17-year-old drivers may not carry more passengers than there are permanently installed seat belts.

The law exempts from the above provisions 16- or 17–year-olds who are active members of (1) a volunteer (a) fire company or (b) ambulance service or (2) an emergency medical service organization if he or she is responding to an emergency or carrying out his or her official duties.

The law allows the DMV commissioner to adopt regulations exempting single parents under 18 years old who are taking their children to day care or child care, education facilities, medical appointments, and for any other purpose the commissioner may allow.

The law prohibits 16- and 17-year-old drivers from operating any motor vehicle on a highway between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless (1) they are traveling to or from work or religious activities; (2) it is medically necessary; or (3) they are designated drivers in a Safe Ride program sponsored by the American Red Cross, the Boy Scouts of America, or another national public service organization. It prohibits a 16- or 17-year-old driver from operating a vanpool vehicle or a motor vehicle for which a public passenger transportation permit is required (CGS 14-36g).