Your First-Time Florida Drivers License Guide

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: January 11, 2021

Most first-time drivers in Florida must complete a drivers ed course to learn how to drive safely. This step is required by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) to obtain a driving permit or a drivers license. Fortunately, it’s not difficult going through one of these courses, and there are plenty available to choose from.

Steps to Getting Your Florida License

If you’re looking to get your Florida Class E 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.

Getting your license is an exciting, scary, and confusing time, sometimes all at the same time. As for the confusing part, Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles doesn’t help matters much.

Let’s look at some things that might make things easier. First off, let’s clear up some Florida HSMV terms. 49 other states in the union call the process of learning to drive “drivers ed,” but not Florida. Instead, first-time drivers here are required to complete a Traffic Law and Substance Abuse Education (TLSAE) course. Now, everyone has learned that driving under the influence of “substances” is bad. A course called Traffic Law and Substance Abuse Education doesn’t sound like a place you’d learn to drive.

Terms (and abbreviations) you should know, starting with:

  • TLSAE—Again, the Traffic Law and Substance Abuse Education course. Also known as drivers ed or the Drug, Alcohol and Traffic Awareness (DATA) course or the Drug Alcohol Traffic Education (DATE) course or the 4-Hour Drug and Alcohol Test or the First Time Driver course. Because Florida.
  • GDL—Graduated Driver Licensing. Refers to a set of laws restricting some driving privileges to first-time drivers aged 15-17. More on this later.
  • DELAP—Driver Education Licensing Assistance Program. This is the term the FLHSMV uses for a drivers ed course offered at your school.
  • Class E License—The FLHSMV offers many types of licenses. A Class E is the one you’ll be shooting for. Just so you know, this license will allow you to drive:
    • Any non-commercial motor vehicles with Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) less than 26,001 pounds, including passenger cars, 15 passenger vans including the driver, trucks or recreational vehicles, and two or three-wheel motor vehicles 50 cc or less, such as mopeds or small scooters.
  • Class E Learner’s License—This is the very first license you will be getting. It is also sometimes called a learners permit or driving permit. By the way, you’ll only be able to drive 8000-pound vehicles while you have this one.

The Road to a Florida License in a Nutshell

The quick and dirty looks like this:

  • Take drivers ed
  • Get a learner’s permit
  • Complete 50 hours of practice driving
  • Pass a road skills test

Now let’s take a look at what it’ll take to get those four steps done.

Step 1Complete the TLSAE Course

Since there’s no getting your learner’s license without it, let’s talk about getting it done. A Florida driver education course provides the skills and training necessary to make you a safe, responsible, and confident driver. The tips and techniques you will learn will make you a more responsible motorist, one that everyone will appreciate sharing the road with.

  • The Traffic Law and Substance Abuse Education course is four hours in length and will cover topics like:
    • Essential skills for safe driving
    • Florida road signs and what they mean
    • How alcohol and drugs affect your driving abilities
    • Traffic laws and driving responsibilities (including the Move Over Law)
    • Behind the wheel safety techniques
    • How to prepare yourself to be a better driver

If Florida drivers ed is offered at your high school, it is available to you free of charge. Chances are good that if the course is offered at your school, it will follow the TLSAE curriculum. The 4-hour TLSAE course is also available online. An online course offers real flexibility because the curriculum can be worked on at any time, often from your phone. There are lots of online courses available, but not all are approved by the FLHSMV. If an online course sounds like it would work for you, check out our list of approved online TLSAE providers at the end of this post. If you (or your folks) would prefer a traditional driving school experience, check out our guide to selecting the best driving school.

How to Choose the Best Driving School for Your Teen

Step 2—Apply for a Learner’s License

To apply for your permit at the FLHSMV, you must:

    • Be at least 15 years old
    • Complete a TLSAE course
    • Be prepared to pass the Class E knowledge exam. Studying the Florida Driver Handbook is a good way to do this. To make things easy for you, the handbook is available as an e-book on Google Play and in iBooks, in both English and Spanish.

Once you’ve gotten the TLSAE out of the way, it’s time to head to your nearest FLHSMV office. There is a lot of paperwork you’ll need to bring with you, so make sure you have it all together when you go.

  • When you get to the FLHSMV office, make sure you have:
    • Proof you completed the TLSAE course
    • Proof of Identity
    • Proof of Social Security
    • Proof of Residency

Check out the FLHSMV list of acceptable documents to see exactly what you should bring. We’ve also provided a list of links to all of the documents mentioned on the FLHSMV list at the bottom of this post. These will be especially helpful if you are not a U.S. citizen.

  • You’ll also need to bring
    • Your eyeballs (for a vision test)
    • Check, cash, or credit card to pay your application fee.

After you have shown all of this to the FLHSMV, hold on to it! You’ll need to show it to them again when you apply for your Class E license. By the way, if you have recently moved to Florida and started this dance in another state, here are some tips that might help. You will also need to have passed your Class E knowledge exam. This is a 50 question test, and it takes a score of 80% to pass. The test will cover Florida road signs and markings, traffic law, and safe driving practices. You can complete the test in three ways:

To give yourself a leg up on passing the knowledge exam, you might want to consider one (or more) of the following:

  • Study the Florida driver handbook
  • Complete a driver prep course
  • Quiz yourself with a Florida permit practice test

Once you pass, that information will automatically be sent to the FLHSMV. Good news! If you take your TLSAE course online, there’s a good chance that your knowledge test will be built in. Not so good news. Florida state statute 322.56(3)(b) and (e) states that even if you have passed the knowledge test, you might be randomly chosen to retake it at the FLHSMV office. That means you shouldn’t forget everything you learned after passing the first time like you do in history class. Besides, if you’re going to be driving a car, the folks around you are going to appreciate it if you remember, too.

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 got 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.

Fail Your Permit Test? You’re Not Alone

Another way to give yourself a leg up on passing the permit test is to consider one (or more) of the following:

A permit practice test has everything the “real” test does, except the pressure. That’s because practice tests feature questions taken from actual DMV exams. It’s like seeing all the answers before the test even begins! Don’t head to the DMV without a dress rehearsal, you want to pass the first time.

You can find permit practice tests (both paid and free versions) all over the internet.

The FLHSMV allows every second (or third or fourth or…) chances to get a passing score. The only frustrating thing is that you will be charged $10 plus a service fee every time you try.

How to Retake Your Permit Test

By the way, if you’re new to the Sunshine State and started this whole license dance somewhere else, here are some tips that might help.

I Just Got My Permit and Now We’re Moving?!?

Step 3—50 Hours of Practice Driving

Now it’s time to put that learners permit to good use. Before you can take a driving test, you’ll have to complete 50 hours of practice driving, and at least 10 of those will need to happen after dark. You can print this log to track your driving time easily. Your permit does come with some restrictions.

  • You must be accompanied at all times by a licensed driver aged 21 years or older in the front passenger seat.
  • For the first 3 months after getting your permit, you can only drive during daylight hours.
  • After 3 months, you can only drive between the hours of 6:00 AM and 10:00 PM.

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

It’s better if you don’t see these things for the first time on your own. You can’t apply for your Class E license until 12 months after receiving your permit or your 18th birthday, whichever comes first. With that much time to kill, there’s no reason not to drive WAY more than 50 hours! It can only do you good. You’ll also want to be on your best driving behavior while driving with your learner’s license. If you are convicted of a moving violation, you won’t be able to obtain your driver license for one year from the conviction date

Step 4—Pass a Driving Test

Now’s the time to show off all you’ve learned by passing a driving skills test. This test can only be taken after you’ve had your learner’s license for a year or have turned 18. Like your knowledge test, your driving skills test can be taken in one of three ways:

Like your knowledge test, you may be randomly selected to retake your driving skills test. You can only take your driving skills test in a car with valid registration, and you have proof of insurance. You also won’t be allowed to take the exam if your car has:

  • A defective or inoperable horn, rear-view mirror, directional signals, steering wheel, brakes, tires, brake lights, or tail lights.
  • No windshield wipers on the driver’s side.
  • No operable headlights.
  • Cracked or broken glass that hinders visibility.
  • An expired tag.
  • No doors.
  • Doors that do not open from the inside and outside.
  • No stationary seats.
  • A drivers window that will not open, preventing the driver from giving hand signals when required.

The test also won’t be given in Jeep-type vehicles without framed canvas or metal doors held by hinges and door latch, doesn’t meet bumper height requirements, or only has a top speed of 20 to 25 miles per hour. The driving skills test will require you to demonstrate the following skills:

  • The ability to execute a three-point turn
  • How to appropriately approach a crossing
  • How to yield the right-of-way
  • The ability to straight-in park
  • The ability to parking on a grade both uphill and downhill, with and without a curb.
  • The ability to stop quickly and safely
  • The ability to back the car a distance of 50 feet at a slow speed while looking to the rear
  • How to appropriately approach a stop sign and execute a proper stop
  • How to appropriately obey traffic signals
  • How to signal and turn with either hand or mechanical signals
  • How to pass
  • How to stay in the proper lane
  • How to follow at a safe distance
  • How to use proper posture

After the test, pass or fail, the examiner/agent will explain any mistakes you may have made. Naturally, if you fail the test, you will be asked to study or practice before returning for a re-test, and every retest will cost you $10 plus a service fee. If you pass the test, the information will automatically be sent to the FLHSMV, and you’re finally ready to trade your learner’s license for your Class E. When you head to the FLHSMV office to make the swap, make sure you have:

Using Your New Florida License

If you are under age 18, the Florida Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) puts some restrictions on your new license.

  • If you are 16
    • You cannot drive between the hours of 11 PM and 6 AM unless you are driving to or from work OR accompanied by a licensed driver aged 21 or older
  • If you are 17
    • You cannot drive between the hours of 1 AM and 5 AM unless you are driving to or from work OR accompanied by a licensed driver aged 21 or older

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!

Now here’s that list of approved online TSLAE providers we promised you way back at the first of this post:

Best Florida FLHSMV Approved Online TLSAE Course Providers

Website Name Phone I Drive Safely 800-990-2814 Aceable Drivers Ed for Mobile and Web 512-522-4174 Driver License Direct by Improv Comedy 800-660-8908 Driver Ed To Go 866-749-4445 Driver Training Associates 800-222-9199 Florida Teen Driving 877-590-9129 First Time Driver 800-732-4135 Driver Training Associates 800-222-9199 Online Drivers Ed 866-836-8952 Teen Driver Education 877-590-9129 National Traffic Safety Institute 888-497-4499 American Safety Institute 800-800-7121 Best Price Traffic School 888-810-0119 Lowest Price Traffic School 800-729-1495 Florida Educational Driving School 954-592-6818 Cheapest in Florida 800-998-8533 Florida Association of DUI Programs 800-953-3237 Driver Educators 888-237-5669 Wise Traffic School 877-885-8843 12 Dollar Cheap and Simple 800-252-9951 Safe2Drive 800-763-1297 My First License 800-953-3237 GDL Institute 888-708-3959 National Highway Safety Administration 800-829-3727 12 Dollar Florida Driver 844-812-8512 Too Cool Traffic School 813-602-1555 DriveSafe Inc. 866-544-2732 Online Drivers Ed 866-836-8952 Highway Traffic School 888-406-1726 Deedal Studio 424-276-9273 Drivers 888-651-2886 12 Dollar Florida Driver 844-812-8512 Online Traffic Education 888-308-9005 Funny in Florida 800-998-8533


And here are the links to all of those “Acceptable Documents” you’ll need to apply for your permit.