Texas Teen Drivers Ed: An Overview of Options and Requirements

Information Last Verified: March 30, 2021 by Jordan Fabel

When your teen is ready to hit the road, you will want to find a Texas driver’s ed program that focuses on teen drivers. It isn’t the same as it was when you were a teen, anxiously waiting to be old enough to climb behind the wheel. Teens today are waiting longer to obtain their license, possibly because of graduated licensing restrictions.

Waiting is not necessarily good for keeping them safe on the road. Teen drivers face harsher penalties when they receive a ticket than an adult does. This includes suspension of their driving privileges or revocation, points on their license, and more. The earlier you get your teen into a driver’s ed course, the more time there is for you to supervise their driving and make sure they develop safe driving habits.

State Driver’s Ed Course Requirements

Teens in Texas under 18 years of age are required to take a driver’s ed course. They may begin classroom instruction at age 14 but will not obtain a learner license until they turn 15. The course they take must include the following: 

Before your teen can begin the driving portion of their instruction, they must obtain a learner’s permit. Driver education is more than just getting behind the wheel and putting the pedal to the medal. They must learn about parking, road signs, and safety standards, such as stopping at railroad crossings.

Teen need instruction on things that become second nature to adult drivers. This includes responding to road hazards, skidding, interpreting intersections, and more. Classroom instruction includes the consequences of drinking and driving and details about automobile insurance.

If doing parent driver ed instruction, do not let any of this instruction slide because you have a “good” kid that would not do anything inappropriate. In 2018 the state of Texas had 155 under age 21 fatalities due to alcohol-impaired driving. That same year there were 349 arrests of drivers in Texas under age 18 for driving under the influence.

Where to Take Driver’s Ed

To be eligible for a driver’s license, teens must take a driver’s ed course. These are sometimes available through their high school or a private instruction business. Those courses meet the state mandate for a minimum number of hours in the classroom and the minimum number of hours driving on the road.

The problem with driver’s ed classes is they operate on a group time structure, which may be difficult if the teen is active in sports, community activities, part-time employment, and more. They also tend to be costly, which can hinder the teen and/or parents operating on a tight budget. An option many parents may not be aware of is the opportunity to teach your teen to drive using parent-taught driver’s education.

Parent Taught Driver’s Ed

The old school method of several teens climbing into a vehicle with an instructor they do not know for driving instruction has moved into the modern era. Parents now serve as the on-road instructor, with classroom instruction being done online.

Parent-taught driver ed for teens is easy to access for you and your teen. They take their classroom instruction in your home setting. They can even download an app that allows them to work on the course wherever they are.

Be aware that as a parent instructing your teen to drive, you have an obligation to follow a driving program that has your state’s approval. You must comply with your state requirements for classroom and on-road driving. The instructing parent must have a valid driver’s license and an acceptable driving record to serve as an instructor.

The beauty of parent-taught driver education is that it allows the parent and student to pace the course to fit their personal schedule. No more trying to fit driver’s ed into a busy schedule. However, do not be slack on following the state regulations for the number of required hours of in-vehicle instruction.

Teen Driver License

Becoming a legal driver in Texas requires two levels of licensing for teens between the ages of 15 to 17 to provide drivers with plenty of experience before venturing out on their own.

Graduated licensing is important when you consider automobile crashes are the 2nd leading cause of death for teens in the United States. Teens between the ages of 16-19 are three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than any other age group. In 2018 the United States saw about 285,000 teens between 13-19 years of age treated in emergency rooms and 2,500 killed as a result of automobile accidents.

Phase I Learner License

To receive the Phase I Learner License the teen must complete the first six (6) hours of classroom driver education instruction. Once they have a certificate for completion of the driver’s knowledge exam they take that certificate to the Department of Public Safety to obtain the Phase I license. This learner’s license allows the teen to legally practice driving on public streets under supervision.

In addition to the above, the teen must provide proof they have a high school diploma or equivalent or are an enrolled student attending school at least 90% of the time in the preceding semester of school. They may also furnish proof they have been in attendance for at least 45 days in a program to pass the high school equivalency exam.

When going for a Phase I permit, the teen must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian when they take their completed application to their scheduled appointment. They will be required to provide numerous documents including Texas Driver Education Certificate DE-964 or DE-964E and evidence of successful completion of the driver knowledge exam.

With the Phase I license the teen must have a licensed driver over age 21 in the front passenger seat of the vehicle. They must drive at the Phase I level for a minimum of six (6) months unless they turn 18 within that period of time. If, for any reason, the teen incurs a license suspension during the six-month period, their time requirement for Phase I will increase.

Phase I licenses expire on the teen’s 18th birthday.

Phase II Provisional Driver license

To obtain Phase II licensing the teen must have their Phase I license a minimum of six months. The exception to this waiting period is if they turn 18 within that time. The teen must also be between the ages of 16 and 17 with completion of their in-car instruction.

In-Car instruction consists of seven hours beside the instructor, watching the instructor demonstrate driving techniques. There is also an additional seven hours of in-car observation driving where the teen demonstrates their knowledge of the points of instruction.

They must also have completed the 30 hours of behind the wheel driving, including a minimum of 10 hours at night. The teen must take the Impact Texas Drivers program within 90 days of applying for their license. This program is available through the state of Texas.

Phase II licensing contains specific restrictions, including no more than one passenger under age 21 who is a non-family member. The teen may not drive between the hours of midnight and 5:00 am unless for work, to attend a school-related activity, or for a medical emergency.

This license expires when the driver turns 18. At that time they may go to the driver’s license office for a person under 21 years old license.

Certificate of Completion DE-964

Your teen will earn two DE-964 certificates. The first certificate is available after the teen completes the permit test following their first six hours of classroom instruction. This certificate needs to be taken to the Department of Licensing and Regulation for them to receive their learner’s permit.

The second DE-964 certificate is awarded after the teen completes their 32 hours of course instruction. The DE-964 Certificate of Completion provides confirmation to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation that your teen has completed a parent-taught driver education course.

This is an important certificate, and you need to make several copies to have on hand. In addition to the licensing office, you need to save a copy in the teen’s permanent records and one for your auto insurance company.

How Long Is My License Good For?

A teen may drive on their Phase I or Phase II license until they reach age 18. Once they have their 18th birthday the license will expire and they need to go to the licensing office for a full driver’s license.

If you are 18 or older, the state of Texas will issue you a driver’s license that is good for eight (8) years. You are able to request a renewal up to two years prior to the expiration date. You may request a renewal online, by telephone, mail, or in person at the driver’s license office.

When the teen moves out of your home they need to change their address on their driver’s license within thirty (30) days after they move into their new residence.

Register Now for Driver’s Ed

You and your teen are looking forward to the day they complete their driver’s ed course. With proper preparation, they will pass their driving test the first time.