British Columbia uses a graduated licensing system that has three distinct stages of driving privileges each separated by a test. New drivers in BC will have to pass through each of the stages and pass each of the required tests in order to become a fully licensed driver. The graduated program begins with the learner’s permit, moves into a novice stage, and finally ends when you earn the full Class 5 license.
The Class 7L Learners Permit
The first stage of the BC license is the Class 7L. This is a learner’s permit that allows you to practice your driving skills in preparation for a road test. In order to get a Class 7L license, you must be 16 years old and have passed a vision screening. You will also have to pass a written knowledge test based on the BC driver’s manual. This will prove that you have studied and gained a basic understanding of the rules of the road.
The class 7L license must be held for at least 12 months before you can move on to the next stage. This time can be reduced if you take an accredited driver education course, down to six months. During that time, you will practice your driving skills, and must comply with a set of restrictions.
Class 7L Restrictions
Class 7L drivers are required to follow a specific set of rules designed for safety and to allow new drivers the chance to learn their driving skills in a cautious manner. There are several restrictions you must follow at all times.
- You must always have a fully licensed driver over the age of 25 in the passenger seat with you when you are driving.
- You must always have a blood alcohol content of zero percent.
- You may only be behind the wheel between 5 a.m. and midnight; from midnight to 5 a.m. Class 7L drivers are prohibited from driving.
- You must always display the red L sign on the vehicle when you are driving, allowing other drivers on the road to be aware that there is a new driver on the road, and give you extra space while you practice your skills. The sign must be clearly visible to drivers who are behind you, so place it on the rear of the car in a noticeable position.
- You may carry no more than two passengers, one of whom is the fully licensed driver required to be in the passenger seat.
- You may not use a cell phone in any capacity, even with a hands-free device, while you are driving, nor any other electronic device.
The Class 7N License
When you have completed the learner’s phase, you will take the Class 7 road test. If you pass this test, you will receive a Class 7N license. This is the novice stage and it will last for at least 24 months before you can take the final road test for your full license. You can reduce this time by taking an approved driver education course.
Class 7N drivers are still subject to a set of restrictions to ensure that they proceed to improve driving ability slowly and carefully and do not become distracted on the road.
Class 7N Restrictions
The restrictions on novice drivers are not quite as stringent as they are on Class 7L drivers, but you must still follow a set of rules.
- You must display the green N sign at the back of the vehicle at all times so that other drivers know you are in the novice stage.
- You must maintain a blood alcohol level of zero percent.
- You may not use a cell phone in any capacity, even with a hands-free device, or any other electronic device while driving.
- You may carry no more than two passengers at one time with two exceptions: if you have a fully licensed driver over 25 in the passenger seat, or if the passengers are family members.
The Class 5 License
When you have completed your learner’s and novice stages, you can take the road test to earn your Class 5 license. This is a full license that lifts all of the restrictions of the Class 7.
The Class 5 road test is an advanced road test that will require you to show advanced abilities to handle the vehicle in multiple situations.
Moving To BC
If you are moving to BC and wish to get a BC license, the steps depend on your current license status. If you hold a full driver’s license from another province, you can exchange it for a Class 5 license. Those in the graduated licensing program of another province will be required to go through the program in BC.
If you come from another country, you will be required to take the Class 5 road test in order to exchange your full license. Anyone without a full license will need to go through the graduated system.