Explaining Hardship Licenses


In most states, a person seeking a driver’s license has to be at least 16 years of age. However, there are certain situations in which having to wait until the legal minimum age would cause undue hardship for the prospective driver. While it’s difficult to obtain this type of license, if you fall into one of the categories that your state considers when issuing hardship licenses, it might be a viable option for you. Here are a few of the reasons you might be considered for a hardship license and a little more about the license itself.

Who Qualifies For a Hardship License?

Hardship licenses are typically only available for teenagers who are 14 or 15 years of age. These teens aren’t quite old enough to get a full-fledged driver’s license, and in some cases they can’t get a permit. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have responsibilities. If teens in this situation can prove that the lack of a driver’s license causes them undue hardship, they may be able to apply for a hardship license. More accurately, the hardship license is a sort of permit before the permit, allowing teens to drive within certain parameters in order to get to medical treatments, work, or school.

What Constitutes a Hardship?

Teenagers have a wide range of responsibilities, and it’s not uncommon for one or both primary caretakers to work. Because of this, it can often put a hardship on the family to transport their teenager to and from work, school, and/or medical treatments. Trying to find a ride or having to take public transportation or walk can also be a hardship on the teen themselves. This is why a hardship license was created. However, teens can only get a hardship license under certain conditions.

●     Age – Teens younger than 14 cannot apply for a hardship license.

●     Work Hours – If a teenager has to get to work and they don’t have a parent or guardian who can take them (without disrupting their own work life or commitments), a hardship license might be considered. However, the teen must be working a certain number of hours per week. Usually, at least 10 hours a week is required.

●     Work Location – The teenager’s work location must be a certain distance from their home. In other words, if a teen’s workplace is right around the corner or a couple of blocks away, it’s unlikely that a hardship license will be issued for work reasons alone. However, if the teen’s workplace is 20 miles away, they’ll probably have a better chance. Location can be arbitrary and depend on state or local laws, so check with the DMV in your area to find out more.

●     School Location – Similar to teens who need to get to and from work, if a teen has to get to and from school, location will be taken into consideration.

●     Parents’ Business – If a teenager needs to operate a vehicle because they’re working for their barents’ business, it’s likely that they’ll be able to obtain a hardship license. This is common in industries such as farming.

●     Medical Treatment – Usually, this doesn’t refer to routine check-ups or doctor’s appointments. However, if a teen has a chronic condition or requires atypical amounts of medical care, a hardship license might be granted so that the teen can drive themselves to and from those appointments if necessary.

Limitations to the Hardship License

The hardship license, as mentioned above, is more of a permit than an actual license. As such, there are some strict limitations to the license itself. It does not give teenagers a free for all behind the wheel. Instead, limitations on where the teen can drive, when they can drive, and how far they can drive often apply. Here are some examples.

●     Usually, a hardship license is only issued for certain locations, namely school and work. Running to the mall with friends, going to the grocery store, or driving to the beach isn’t going to be allowed under this license.

●     Teens aren’t allowed to drive passengers outside of their family member.

●     Teens driving with a hardship license may not travel at night. They are only allowed to use the license during daylight hours.

●     Mileage restrictions also exist. In most cases, teens can’t drive more than 25 miles each way with a hardship license.

These are general rules and regulations that typically come with a hardship license. However, you should check with your local DMV to find out what the specifications and requirements for a hardship license are in your area. Additionally, it’s important to provide evidence when filling out your application. In other words, you’ll want work hours, a note from your school verifying the distance from your home, and other similar types of verification to prove that you really do have a hardship. Also, most DMVs will require the application to be notarized, so it’s a good idea to get that done before you submit the application.


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