Virginia’s Juvenile Driver’s License Ceremony

Virginia’s Juvenile Driver’s License Ceremony

During a recent visit to our local courthouse, I walked into the lobby and saw many nervous, nicely dressed teens and their parents.  The courthouse is the center of many legal and civic activities, and the teens waiting outside the courtroom were there for a special milestone – receiving their driver’s licenses.

teenager getting driver's license

What is a Juvenile Driver Licensing Ceremony?

The Code of Virginia §46.2-336  legislates and describes the Juvenile Driver Licensing Ceremony. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) sends all original driver’s licenses issued to applicants under eighteen to the judge of the juvenile and domestic relations court in the city or county in which the licensee resides. The judge issues the license during a ceremony designed to illustrate the responsibility attendant on the privilege of driving a motor vehicle. If the license recipient is under the age of eighteen years at the time the license is issued, they must be accompanied at the ceremony by a parent or guardian.

Do other states host Juvenile Driver Licensing Ceremonies?

Many other states hand out licenses to teens at the department of motor vehicles or send them by mail. This unique ceremony required by Virginia law gives judges an opportunity to have a positive interaction with teenage drivers and to show them the awesome responsibility that comes with a driver’s license.

Why do the courts host these ceremonies?

It’s vital to reinforce to teens the importance of safe driving. In 2019, 2,400 teens in the United States ages 13–19 were killed and 258,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes. That data shows that six teens ages 16–19 died every day from motor vehicle injuries.

smiling judge

What teens are most at risk for car crashes?

  • Males
    • In 2019, the death rate for male drivers aged 16–19 more than doubled the death rate for female drivers of the same age.
  • Teens driving with teen or young adult passengers
    • A group of teens or young adult passengers sharing the car increases the crash risk of unsupervised teen drivers. Each additional teen or young adult passenger increases the probability of a crash.
  • Newly-licensed teens
    • The crash risk for teens is particularly high during the first few months of licensure.
Juvenile driver licensing ceremony

Photo credit: The Washington Post

What you need to know about the Juvenile Driver Licensing Ceremony:

  • When ?  After a teen has held their permit for a period of 9 months, turned age 16 and 3 months, and has completed driver’s education, the Department of Motor Vehicles will send the driver’s license to the teen’s local court. Once the court has received the license, they will send a notice to attend a licensing ceremony. This notice usually occurs during the last 30 days of the teen’s temporary license.
  • Where ?  The ceremony takes place in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court before the presiding judge in the locality where the young driver resides. The majority of ceremonies are held in the courtroom. The teen must be accompanied by a parent, custodial parent or legal guardian when receiving a permanent first-time driver’s license. Typical courtroom decorum and procedures are followed.  Appropriate dress is required.
  • How often/how long ?  Every locality is different and schedules according to their needs. The ceremonies are held as frequently as once a week and as  infrequently as once every two months. Half the ceremonies take less than 30 minutes while the other half can take up to an hour. The majority of courts average attendance of 100 people or less. Some ceremonies are conducted in the morning, others are held after school, and some are held in the evenings.
  • What to expect ? The licensing ceremony usually includes:  a speech by the judge, and possibly a police officer, a video on drunk driving, and testimonials from parents who have lost a child in a wreck.

Receiving a driver’s license is a milestone for teenagers that obviously evokes much excitement. Hopefully, the driver’s license ceremony perpetuates the responsibility of this privilege.