District of Columbia New Resident Guide

Welcome to District of Columbia! As a new driver to this state you will need to be aware of our unique traffic laws and regulations. Here's what you need to keep in mind while driving in District of Columbia. Some of these rules may be the same as what you're already used to, but others will be drastically different!

Licensing and Residency Requirements

  • Persons moving to the District, who have a valid registration from another jurisdiction, have 30 days from the date of entering DC to obtain a registration.
  • If you live in the city for 30 days or more and operate a vehicle in public space, DC law requires you to obtain a DC Driver license, unless you are eligible for reciprocity (students, active military, part-time residents, members of Congress, government appointees).
  • Residents are required to update changes in address within 5 days to keep their records current.

Graduated Licensing Program

Learner Permit


  • Must be at least 16 years of age;
  • Pass a written knowledge test.

Privileges and Restrictions

  • You must be accompanied by a licensed driver(s) who is 21 years or older and who has a valid full driver license.
  • Permitted driving hours:
    • September - June:
      • Sunday - Thursday - 6 am - 9 pm
      • Friday & Saturday - 6 am - 9 pm.
    • July & August:
      • Everyday - 6 am - 9 pm.

Provisional License


  • Must be at least 16 1/2;
  • Must have held a valid learner permit for at least 6 months, pointable violation-free;
  • Must complete 40 hours of driving experience accompanied by a licensed driver(s) who is 21 years or older and who has a valid full driver license;
  • Must take and pass the Road Skills Test.

Privileges and Restrictions

  • You can drive alone.
  • You can drive with one passenger that is the holder of a valid full driver license who is 21 years of age or older, occupying the front passenger seat next to you and is wearing a seat belt, and any other passenger who is your sibling or parent.
  • You and your passengers must wear seatbelts at all times.
  • Driving hours are restricted for provisional license drivers.
    • September - June:
      • Sunday - Thursday, 6 am - 10:59 pm.
      • Friday & Saturday, 6 am - 11:59 pm.
    • July & August:
      • Everyday, 6 am - 11:59 pm.
  • Any pointable traffic violation that you admit to, have been found liable for, or convicted of will extend the amount of time you must wait to apply for a full license. You must be violation free for twelve consecutive months before graduating to the Full License with conditions stage.
  • During your Provisional License stage, if you violate any GRAD program restrictions, you will be subject to a thirty, sixty or ninety days suspension of your Provisional License depending upon whether it is your first, second or third or more violation of GRAD program restrictions. These penalties are in addition to any other penalty that may be applicable. Additionally, like any other driver, you will be automatically suspended if your point total reaches ten. After suspension, you will be required to pay a reinstatement fee to reinstate your provisional license.

Full License with conditions


  • You must be at least 17 years old;
  • You must practice night driving for at least 10 hours with a driver who is 21 years of age or older and who has a valid full driver license;
  • You must have held your provisional license for at least 6 months, have been pointable violation free for 12 consecutive months and have logged your 10 hrs night driving experience.

Privileges and Restrictions

  • You can drive alone.
  • If you are under 18 years old, you can drive with no more than two passengers under age 21. This restriction does not apply to passengers who are your siblings.
  • If you are under 18 years old, you cannot operate a motor vehicle other than a passenger vehicle or motorized bicycle used solely for the purposes of pleasure and not for compensation. You and your passengers must wear seatbelts at all times.
  • If you are under 18, your parent/legal guardian is notified of your GRAD violations.
  • Driving hours are restricted for Full license drivers between the ages of 17 - 18 years old.
    • September - June:
      • Sunday - Thursday, 6 am - 10:59 pm.
      • Friday & Saturday, 6 am - 11:59 pm.
    • July & August:
      • Everyday, 6 am - 11:59 pm.
  • There are no driving hours or passenger restrictions for holders of Full License drivers once you turn 18 years old.

Full License Without Conditions or Restrictions

  • You are eligible for a full, unrestricted license once you turn 18 and have held your learner permit for 6 months, OR
  • When you turn 21:
    • The District of Columbia's graduated licensing program only applies to drivers up to age 21.
    • During the learner permit stage, once you are age 21, you may immediately schedule a road test appointment. No driving certification form or six months holding period is required.
    • During provisional license stage, once you are age 21, you are no longer covered by the GRAD program (of which the provisional license is a part of) and you may immediately visit a DMV service center location to obtain a regular driver license. No driving certification form or six months holding period is required. It is not mandatory that you convert your provisional license to a regular driver license once you turn age 21. Instead, you may wait until your provisional license expires to obtain a regular license.

Violation Point Counts

The amount of points that go against your driver's license for specific types of violations.

8 Point Violations

  • Turn off headlights of a vehicle to avoid identification by a police officer;
  • Leave the scene of a collision in which no personal injury occurs.

6 Point Violations

  • Reckless driving;
  • Fail to yield to an emergency vehicle;
  • Commit a misdemeanor crime involving the use of a motor vehicle.

5 Point Violations

  • Fail to give right-of-way to a pedestrian;
  • Speed 21 miles per hour or more above posted speed limit;
  • Operate a vehicle with a learner permit unaccompanied by a licensed driver.

4 Point Violations

  • Operate a motor vehicle in violation of a restriction on your license;
  • Fail to stop for a school vehicle with alternately flashing lights;
  • Speed 16-20 miles per hour above posted speed.

3 Point Violations

  • Speed 11-15 miles per hour above posted speed limit;
  • Commit violations that contribute to an accident;
  • Fail to comply with seatbelt law.

2 Point Violations

  • Operate a vehicle with a license expired less than 90 days;
  • Operate a vehicle with an improper class of license;
  • Follow another vehicle too closely.

Other Violations

Any moving violation that does not contribute to an accident and is not listed may be 2-3 points.

How long points remain on record

2 years.

10 - 11 points: DC license suspended, lose driving privileges for 90 days.

12 or more points: DC license revoked, lose driving privileges until DMV reinstates license (at least 6 months after revocation).

Insurance Requirements

The Compulsory/No-Fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act requires that every person applying for registration or a reciprocity sticker in DC, have valid DC vehicle insurance. The insurance must be maintained as long as the vehicle is registered. Lapses in coverage are subject to fines. Do not cancel insurance until vehicle tags are surrendered to DMV.

The minimum insurance coverage required is:

  • Property Damage Liability $10,000;
  • Third Party Liability $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident;
  • Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident;
  • Uninsured Motorist property damage $5,000 subject to $200 deductible.

Headlight Laws

You must dim your headlights from high to low beam when you are within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle or within 300 feet of a vehicle traveling ahead of you.

You must use your headlights:

  • One-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise.
  • At other times when you cannot see persons or vehicles on the highway clearly at a distance of 500 feet or less.
  • When the windshield wipers are on.

There is no specific law allowing or prohibiting headlight flashing.

Implied Consent Laws

  • Suspension - 12 months. Mandatory - No occupational hardship license shall be issued.

DUI Penalties

Illegal per se/Under the Influence

First Offense

  • $300 fine;
  • 5 to 90 day imprisonment;
  • 6 month license revocation.

Second Offense (within 15 years)

  • $1,000 - $5,000;
  • 5 days - 1 year in jail;
  • 1 year license revocation.

Third and Subsequent Offenses (within 15 years)

  • $2,000 - $10,000 fine;
  • Either 10 days - 1 year imprisonment OR at least 60 days community service;
  • 2 years license revocation.

Driving While Impaired

First Offense

  • $200 - $300 fine;
  • Up to 30 day imprisonment;
  • 2 - 90 days license suspension.

Second Offense (within 15 years)

  • $300 - $500 fine;
  • 5 days to 1 year imprisonment OR at least 30 days community service;
  • 2 - 90 day suspension or revocation.

Third or Subsequent Offense (within 15 years)

  • $1,000 - $5,000 fine;
  • 10 days to 1 year imprisonment OR at least 60 days community service;
  • 2 - 90 day suspension or revocation.


Child Endangerment

  • Child endangerment

Alcohol education and treatment

  • A person previously convicted of a DWI offense (within 15 years) shall receive an assessment of the person's degree of alcohol abuse and treatment, as appropriate.

Ignition Interlock

  • Repeat offenders may apply for participation in the ignition interlock program after the expiration of their suspension or revocation period.
  • May not participate if they have a prior conviction for causing injury or death while operating a motor vehicle, or if have participated in this or a similar program within past 5 years.

Open Container Law

The Open Container Law prohibits possession of an open alcoholic beverage container in the passenger area of any motor vehicle, by any occupant of the vehicle, on any public highway or right of way, whether or not the vehicle is in motion.

Red Light Violation Fines

  • Traditional enforcement: $150 fine/2 points;
  • Auto enforcement: $150, no points.

Construction Zone Penalties

All moving vehicle violations when workers are present are subject to two times the original fine.

Turn Signal Information

Signal your intention to turn or change lanes at least 100 feet in advance. You should signal for a much greater distance and a longer time interval when traveling at a high speed.

Hazard Light Information

Hazard light use is permitted for the purpose of warning other drivers of the presence of a vehicular traffic hazard requiring the exercise of unusual care in approaching, overtaking or passing.

Funeral Procession Right-of-Way Laws

  • No driver of a vehicle shall drive between the vehicles comprising a funeral or other authorized procession while they are in motion and when the vehicles are conspicuously designated as required by this chapter. The provision shall not apply at intersections where traffic is controlled by traffic control signals or police officers, except as provided in this section.
  • Each driver in a funeral or other procession shall drive as near to the right-hand edge of the roadway as practicable and shall follow the vehicle ahead as close as is practicable and safe.
  • The leading vehicle in a funeral procession shall stop at any intersection where the traffic control device requires such a stop, but after the leading vehicle has entered the intersection, all vehicles in the funeral procession shall continue their passage; provided, that this subsection shall not apply when there is a funeral escort officer preceding the funeral procession.
  • A funeral procession accompanied by an escort officer shall have the right-of-way and have the right to proceed through an intersection where the traffic control device normally would require a stop.

School Bus Laws


  • Vehicles are required to stop unless the bus is on the other side of a divided median.
  • Vehicles must stop at least 15 feet from the front or rear of the school vehicle


  • Failure to stop and remain stopped when required will result in a $500 fine

Bicyclist Passing Distance

A 3-foot minimum passing distance is required.

Motorcycle Laws


  • Applicants for a motorcycle license must fulfill the same requirements as applicants for motor vehicles.
  • The types of licenses are Class M: Motorcycle; Class N: Moped.
  • Motorcycle operators are not subject to the minimum insurance liability requirements.

Protective Gear

  • Motorcycle helmets are required for all riders.


  • Not required in daytime.

Sharing the Road

  • Lane splitting is not authorized.
  • Motorcycles traveling side-by-side in a single lane is not addressed in state law.

Using the Shoulder to Pass

You may not drive off the roadway to pass on the right.

Passing Laws

Do Not Pass:

  • When approaching or upon a hill or curve;
  • When approaching within 100 feet of or traversing any intersection or railroad grade crossing;
  • On the roadway of any bridge, viaduct, or tunnel;
  • When approaching within 100 feet of any bridge, viaduct, or tunnel.

When Being Passed:

  • Give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle;
  • The overtaking vehicle may signal by honking its horn;
  • Do not increase the speed of your vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

Speed Limits

  • 25 mph on all streets and highways unless otherwise designated.
  • 15 mph in alleys.
  • 15 mph in streets adjacent to school buildings or playgrounds when indicated by official sign, during recess or when children are going to or leaving school.

Safety Belt and Child Safety Seat Laws

Safety Belts

  • Occupants age 16 or older must wear safety belts.
  • Police may stop vehicles solely for belt law violations.
  • The fine for a first offense is $50.
  • Points will be assessed for a violation of this law.

Child Seats

  • Children 7 years and younger must be in a child seat.
  • Children 8 - 15 years must be restrained, and may use an adult safety belt.
  • Police may stop vehicles solely for child seat law violations.
  • The fine for a first offense is $50.
  • Points will be assessed for a violation of this law.

Emergency Vehicle Laws

Move Over

  • The District of Columbia does not have a specific law requiring you to change lanes when an emergency vehicle is displaying flashing lights while stopped on or adjacent to the roadway.
  • You may never drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions, with regard to actual and potential hazards.


Do not follow a fire apparatus traveling in response to a fire alarm closer than 500 feet, or drive into or park within the block where the fire apparatus has stopped in answer to a fire alarm.

Collision Procedures

  • Stop and provide assistance to any injured person;
  • Provide the following information to any other person involved in the accident, or to any police officer at the scene of the crash:
    • Driver's name and address;
    • Owner's name and address;
    • Vehicle registration number.
  • Notify authorities immediately
    • If struck vehicle was unattended, or the accident resulted in injury, you must report the accident and provide the driver's name and address, the owner's name and address, and the vehicle registration number to the police immediately.