If you’re looking to get your Alabama drivers license, we’re here to help. Welcome to our step by step guide to get you off of your couch and out onto the road. We know you have a lot of questions, so let’s get going.
No matter your age, getting your license can be an exciting, scary, and confusing time, sometimes all at the same time. First off, let’s clear up some ALEA (Alabama Law Enforcement Agency) terms. In some cases, it seems they’ve gone out of their way to make it confusing.
Terms (and abbreviations) you should know:
- ALEA—Alabama Law Enforcement Agency The government agency that will be issuing your license
- Driver Education Class—A.K.A. “drivers ed.” A state-approved course that covers driving law and basic driving skills.
- Knowledge Test—A.K.A. “Written Driving” or “Permit” Test, it’s the one you’ll have to pass to get your learner’s license.
- Learner’s License—A.K.A. “Driving Permit” License that will allow you to legally practice drive before applying for your restricted license. Sometimes referred to as a “Stage I” license. It looks like a standard Alabama drivers license but will be marked with a “Y.”
- Restricted License—Per the ALEA GDL (Graduated Drivers Licensing) program, this is the license you will receive after passing your road skills examination. It is also known as a “Stage II license, and we’ll talk about the restrictions it comes with later in the post.
- Road Skills Examination—A.K.A. “Road Skills Test” or just plain ‘ol “Driving Test,” it’s the one you’ll have to pass to get your restricted license.
- Unrestricted License—A.K.A. a Stage III license; it’s the “drive anytime, anywhere, and with anybody” license, the reason you started this dance in the first place.
See? I told you they made it confusing!
Who Must Take Alabama Drivers Ed?
Alabama is one of the few states with no drivers ed requirement. However, it’s probably not a bad idea for anyone to take a drivers ed course before getting their first license. You can enroll in drivers ed at age 15.
The Path to an Alabama License in a Nutshell
The quick and dirty looks like this:
- Take drivers ed (if you choose)
- Get a learner’s license
- Practice drive for 30 hours
- Pass a road skills test
Now let’s take a look at what it’ll take to get those four steps done.
Step 1—Take Drivers Ed
Again, while there is no requirement for drivers ed, it can help in some key areas.
- The Classroom Instruction Phase will make passing the knowledge test easier than just studying the Alabama driver manual.
- The Behind-the-Wheel Instruction Phase will not only get you ready for your road skills examination, but it will also allow you to get your required practice driving out of the way.
- If offered at your school, you can get all of this accomplished during the school day and will earn elective credit toward graduation.
The 30- hour classroom portion of an Alabama drivers ed course teaches topics like:
- Alabama traffic law
- Meanings of road signs, signals, and markings
- Your responsibilities as a licensed driver
- Alcohol safety and drug abuse awareness
- Motor vehicle operation fundamentals
- Driving in hazardous situations
- Driving in emergency situations
Alternatively, the classroom portion of Alabama drivers ed can be completed at an approved driving school or online.
Perhaps the easiest way is to complete the classroom portion of drivers ed is online. Taking drivers ed online means you can complete this portion at a pace and on a schedule that works best for you. Some online courses can even qualify you for high school credit, just as if you were taking it on campus.
If you think completing a course online might be a good fit, here’s a list of some great Alabama online drivers ed providers.
Best Alabama ALEA Approved Online Drivers Ed Course Providers
If you (or your folks) would prefer a traditional driving school experience, check out our guide to selecting the best driving school.
Step 2—Getting Your Learner’s License
If you are 15, you can apply for your learner’s license so you can begin your practice driving.
Important Note: If you are enrolled in drivers ed, you can put off this step, but you will only be allowed to practice drive with your drivers ed instructor. This option is not available if you choose to take drivers ed online.
When you arrive, be sure to have the following with you:
- An original U.S. birth certificate (issued by the Bureau of Vital Statistics)
- Social Security card
- Acceptable proof of school enrollment or graduation You can choose from:
- A Form DL1/93
- Certificate of graduation
- GED certificate
- Certified letter from school officials certifying enrollment
- 2 Proofs of Principal Residence You can choose from:
- Voter Registration Card
- Residential Mortgage Contract
- Current Lease or Rental agreement for housing
- Proof of payment of residential property tax (Homestead)
- Previous year tax returns bearing applicants address
- Vehicle registration bearing applicants name and address
- Utility bill (Water, Gas, or Electric) less than 90 days old
- Any State or Federal Court documents indicating residence address
- School enrollment documentation
- Defense Department Form 214 (Report of Separation)
- Sex offender registration documents
- Current Homeowners insurance policy with name and address
- Social Security benefits statements/summary mailed to a physical address
- U.S. or State Government check or other document mailed to applicants physical address
- Military Orders documenting duty station and place of residence
Check out the ALEA list of acceptable documents to see exactly what you should bring.
You’ll also need to bring:
- Your eyeballs (for a vision test)
- Cash or credit card to pay your application fee.
Now it’s time for your written permit test
To pass the 30-question multiple-choice test, you’ll need to score 80%. Here are some suggestions on how to prepare.
Another way to give yourself a leg up on passing the permit test is to consider one (or more) of the following:
- Study the Alabama Drivers Manual
- Take a driver prep course, a great way to get you ready for your license. (Learn more)
- Quiz yourself with an Alabama permit practice test
A permit practice test has everything the “real” test does, except the pressure. That’s because practice tests feature questions taken from actual ALEA exams. It’s like seeing all the answers before the test even begins! Don’t head for your test without a dress rehearsal, you want to pass the first time.
What If Your Test Didn’t Go Like You Planned?
What if you get to the testing center and, despite all your best preparation, your nerves get the best of you, and you wind up failing the test? First, don’t panic. Nearly 1 out of 3 test-takers fail on their first attempt.
If you do happen to fail, the ALEA will give you two more chances to pass. If you don’t get it on the last try, you’ll have to start the application process all over again.
Another Note—If you’re new to Alabama and started this whole license dance somewhere else, here are some tips that might help.
Step 3—30 Hours of Practice Driving
Now it’s time to put that learners license to good use, and you are required to use it for six months before you can apply for your license. While practice driving, you must have a parent, guardian, or licensed driving instructor in the passenger seat when driving
While you might be nervous at first, do your best to enjoy this time and always pay close attention to what’s going on around you. You never know the kinds of things, good and bad, that you might learn from the drivers around you. Also, do yourself the favor of driving in as many conditions as you can, places like:
- On the highway
- In neighborhoods
- On winding or hilly roads
- In downtown areas
- In bad weather
- After dark
It’s better if you don’t see these things for the first time on your own.
BTW—If you are planning a family road trip, you may get the chance to do some practice driving in another state. Check this out to see if you can.
Step 4—Pass a Driving Test
Finally, the last hurdle, your driving test. It’s all good. You got this.
Just like when you applied for your permit, you’ll need to schedule an appointment for your driving and skills test.
Be sure to arrive in a car that is properly registered and insured, and that can pass a basic safety inspection.
The best way to prepare for the road skills test would be to familiarize yourself with the road test study guide. You should start reviewing this document soon after you begin practice driving so that you can feel comfortable performing all of the skills you will be tested on. You will most likely be asked to perform maneuvers like:
- Stopping and starting
- Turning around and backing up
- Proper use of turn signals
- Proper lane usage
- Maintaining a safe following distance
Using Your New License
Per the rules of the Alabama Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Program, your new Stage II license will come with some restrictions concerning when you can drive and who you can have in the car with you.
You may not drive from midnight to 6 A.M. unless traveling:
- To or from work
- To or from school
- To or from a school-sponsored or religious event
- With a licensed driver age 21 or older
You may not transport more than one passenger other than parents, legal guardians, or family members.
You can apply for an Unrestricted (Stage III) license when you are 17 or have held your Stage II license for six months.
A Final Note
Any licensed driver will tell you that you will never face a driving situation as complicated, nerve-wracking, and time-consuming as getting your license. By no means should you let your guard down once you’re behind the wheel but, rest assured. You’ll never face anything on the road that will compare with the process it took to get you your license.
Good luck as you work your way through this. Can’t wait to see you out on the road!
A Final Final Note
If you’ve made it this far, may we suggest you bookmark this page? You’ll probably be coming back to it often as you work your way through this!