Most first-time drivers in Hawaii must complete a drivers ed course to learn how to drive safely. This step is required by the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HI DOT) 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 Hawaii License
If you’re looking to get your Hawaii 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.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, getting your first license can be an exciting, scary, and confusing time, sometimes all at the same time. First off, let’s clear up some Hawaii DMV terms. In some cases, it seems they’ve gone out of their way to make it confusing.
Terms (and abbreviations) you should know:
- Classroom Driver Education—A.K.A. “drivers ed.” A state-approved course that will cover driving law and basic driving skills.
- Instruction Permit—A.K.A. “Learners Permit” or “Driving Permit.” This permit will allow you to practice drive legally before applying for your license.
- Written Test—A.K.A. “Permit Test.” 30 question exam to get your permit
- Class 3 License—The license you’re shooting for, allowing you to drive any vehicle besides a motorcycle or commercial vehicle.
- Knowledge Test—A.K.A. “Written Driving” or “Permit Test,” it’s the one you’ll have to pass to get a permit.
- Road Test—A.K.A. “Driving Skills Test” or just plain ‘ol “Driving Test,” it’s the one you’ll have to pass to get your license.
- Provisional License—A.K.A. “Graduated Drivers License.” A “Class 3” with some restrictions. These restrictions will apply if you are under 18.
See? I told you they made it confusing!
Who Must Take Hawaii Drivers Ed?
No matter your age, it’s probably not a bad idea for anyone to take a drivers ed course before getting their first license. However, Hawaii only requires drivers ed for driving candidates younger than 18. You can enroll in drivers ed at age 15 1/2.
The Path to a Hawaii License in a Nutshell
The quick and dirty looks like this:
- Get a learner’s permit
- Take drivers ed
- 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 1—Getting Your Permit
Application for a permit will happen at a local licensing center. You’ll need to make an appointment online to submit your application.
When you arrive, be sure to have the following:
- Proof of Identity
- Proof of Address
- Proof of Legal Presence
- Proof of Social Security Number
- A notarized Parent Affidavit
Check out the list of acceptable documents to see exactly what you should bring.
You’ll also need to bring:
- Your fingers (for printing) and your eyeballs (for a vision test)
- Check, cash, or credit card to pay your application fee.
Now it’s time for your written permit test
The test will include questions about:
- Driving laws and their penalties
- Various kinds of driving skills, such as turning, signaling, lane changing, and parking
- Differences between highway driving and city driving, including speed limits
- Procedures to be used in accidents or emergencies
- Distinguishing various signs and their meaning based on color and shape
- Meanings of pavement markings on both highways and streets
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, you might want to consider one (or more) of the following:
- Study the Hawaii Drivers Manual
- Take a driver prep course, a great way to get you ready for your license. (Learn more)
- Quiz yourself with a Hawaii 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 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.
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, you will be given more chances, but there are some rules.
- You will have to wait until at least the next day for another attempt
- You may be subject to an additional fee
Another Note—If you’re new to Hawaii and started this whole license dance somewhere else, here are some tips that might help.
Step 2—Take Drivers Ed
A Hawaii drivers ed course is comprised of:
- 37 hours of classroom instruction
- Six hours of behind the wheel training
The classroom portion teaches topics like:
- Hawaii traffic laws
- 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
The classroom portion of Hawaii drivers ed can be completed at an approved driving school, or, if it is offered, your high school.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Currently in Hawaii, online drivers education is not accepted by the Hawaii Department of Motor Vehicles. However, this does not mean that online course will not be helpful for test preparation and to instill good driving habits.
At the end of your course, you will receive a certificate of completion. Hold on to it! You’ll need it when you apply for your provisional license.
Here is some helpful information for when it comes time to pick where you want to take drivers ed.
Step 3—50 Hours of Practice Driving
Now it’s time to put that learners permit to good use, and you are required to use it for six months before you can apply for your license.
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.
Your permit does come with some restrictions. You must be accompanied at all times by a licensed driver who is 21 or older riding in the front passenger seat. To drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., this licensed driver must be your parent or guardian.
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. Take time to learn all you can from the licensed driver who is with 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.
Since you’ll be using your permit for six months, there’s no reason not to drive WAY more than 50 hours! It can only do you good.
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.
You must be 16 years old to apply for a provisional license. You must also have:
- Held a valid instruction permit for at least six months
- No at-fault crashes in those six months
- No moving violation convictions in those six months
- No alcohol or drug convictions of any kind in those six months
You must schedule an appointment for your driving test. When you arrive for your appointment, be sure to have the following with you:
- Instruction Permit
- Drivers Education Certificate of Completion
- A vehicle to take the test in. The vehicle must:
- Be insured
- Be properly registered
- Be able to pass a visual safety inspection
When the time comes to take the driving test, relax and remember all you learned during your practice driving. During the test 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 Hawaii Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Program, your new license will come with some restrictions concerning when you can drive and who you can have in the car with you.
According to the Honolulu.gov website,
The provisional licensee driver SHALL NOT TRANSPORT more than one person below the age of 18 without being accompanied by a licensed driver that is the provisional licensee’s parent or guardian, unless that person is a household member.
The provisional licensee SHALL NOT TRANSPORT more than one person under the age of 18 between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. without being accompanied by the licensed parent or guardian of the provisional licensee
The provisional licensee driver SHALL NOT DRIVE between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., unless accompanied by either a parent or guardian that is licensed to drive the same type of motor vehicle and is seated in the passenger seat beside the licensee
The person granted a provisional driver license MAY drive between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. without a licensed parent or guardian in the motor vehicle only under the following conditions: Traveling to or from the licensee’s place of employment,…traveling to or from a school-authorized activity
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!
Fail Your Permit Test? You’re Not Alone
Fail your permit test? Yeah, it happens. In fact, over 1 in 3 first timers do. Check out some of the most notorious and some tips for next time.
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