New York Approves Online Pre-Licensing Course for New Drivers

Traditionally, teens and adults seeking a driver license in New York have been required to take a 5-hour classroom course to learn the rules of the road and safe driving principles. But starting in fall 2020, the state will allow new drivers to take a convenient online version of the 5-hour pre-licensing course.

In October 2019, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed Senate Bill S3965-A, which approved a pilot program to create an online offering for the 5-hour pre-licensing course. The program, which starts with the development of rules and regulations, will run from June 30, 2020, to June 30, 2025.

New York Safety Council will soon offer the online 5-hour pre-licensing course, which will provide new drivers with more convenience and flexibility as they meet state requirements to earn their first driver license.

The company’s DMV-approved online Defensive Driving course has already helped more than 50,000 New Yorkers reduce their traffic violation points and save 10% on their insurance premiums.

About the 5-Hour Pre-Licensing Course

Also known as the five-hour course, this program was created to provide new drivers the information they need to drive safely. All new drivers in the state must complete the course before they can schedule the behind-the-wheel road test for their driver license.

For many students, this course represents the only formal opportunity to learn the basic rules of the road. Topics covered in the course include:

  • The meaning of road signs and road markings
  • Principles of safe driving
  • Defensive driving skills
  • Factors that impact your ability to drive safely

This course also covers information about driving on the interstate highway system, appropriate risk management skills, safe driver habits and skills, and the impact of alcohol and other drugs on your ability to drive safely.

In the past, this course has been offered at educational institutions such as high schools, colleges, commercial driving schools and other sites approved by the New York DMV. The course curriculum has been standardized by the DMV, and the program is administered by instructors who have been certified by the New York State Education Department.

With the new online format, students will have the flexibility to complete their training anywhere with internet access. Unlike the classroom-based course, students can learn at their own pace and take breaks at any time.

Adapting to a Changing Learning Environment

New technology has impacted every sector of the economy, including education. Training providers and regulatory agencies are leveraging the power of the internet to improve the quality of education that students receive.

Assemblyman Michael Cusick of Staten Island acknowledged this as a major benefit of the new legislation.

"In today's ever-evolving technological environment, there is a steady and consistent movement toward on-line offerings of goods and services," Cusick said. "Allowing these courses to be done online would provide flexibility and efficiency to this step of the licensing process."

He added that DMV services are expanding to an online format with great success, and the public is reporting increased satisfaction with these offerings.

Those who are interested in taking the 5-hour pre-licensing course in the classroom will have the ability to do so. While the online option is ideal for many students, others may prefer to complete their training in person.

Cusick said that the online course options allow the DMV to monitor the activity of students and training providers far better than in a classroom setting. This will provide helpful oversight during the rollout of the online program.

Getting Your License After Pre-Licensing Training

Graduates of the pre-licensing course will receive a completion certificate that remains valid for one year. The next step to getting your license is taking the road test.

But before drivers under age 18 can take the behind-the-wheel test, they must complete at least 50 hours of supervised driving practice, including 15 hours of night driving and 10 hours of driving in moderate to heavy traffic.

The day of your road test, you’re required to bring:

  • Your photo learner permit
  • Glasses or contacts if you need corrective lenses
  • Your original Pre-Licensing Course Certificate (MV-278) or Student Certificate of Completion (MV-285)
  • If you are under 18, a Certification of Supervised Driving form signed by your parent or guardian
  • A vehicle to drive during the test that has a valid registration and inspection
  • A licensed driver age 21 or older to operate the test vehicle

If your pre-licensing course certificate expires before you take the road test, you need to retake the course.

Once you pass your road test, you’ll receive an interim license that allows you to drive. You will receive your photo driver license in the mail in about two weeks.


New York Department of Motor Vehicles. (2018, July). Pre-Licensing Course Instructor’s Manual. Retrieved from

New York Department of Motor Vehicles. (n.d.). Prepare for your road test. Retrieved from

New York Department of Motor Vehicles. (n.d.). Requirements and forms for pre-licensing course provider. Retrieved from

New York Department of Motor Vehicles. (n.d.). Schedule and take a road test. Retrieved from

The New York State Senate. (n.d.). Senate Bill S3965A. Retrieved from

Whittaker, J. (2019, October 11). State Looks To Offer 5-Hour Course Online. Retrieved from