Licensing & State Laws

Indiana’s multi-stage licensing process allow teens to gradually gain exposure to complex driving situations, easing them into driving over an extended period of time. The learner’s permit and probationary stages are key steps.

Learner’s Permit

At age 15, teens who are enrolled in a state-approved driver education class may apply for a learner’s permit to begin practice driving. The teen must also pass a standard vision test and written driver’s knowledge test.  Practice driving may begin only after the driver education class begins and the teen must be accompanied by a certified driving instructor in the front seat of a vehicle equipped with dual brake controls, or a parent, step-parent or guardian who has a valid driver’s license and is seated in the vehicle’s front passenger seat.

If not enrolled in an approved driver education class, a teen must be at least age 16 to apply for a learner’s permit to begin practice driving. Once the teen passes the written driver’s knowledge test and a standard vision test, he/she will be given a learner’s permit. The teen may then practice driving when a parent, guardian, step-parent or other relative who is at least 25 years of age or with a licensed driving instructor working under the direction of a driving school is seated in the vehicle’s front passenger seat.

To obtain the learner’s permit, you and your teen must visit the local license branch and bring the original, completed Certificate of Driver Education form provided by the driver education program or school (if under age 16), an original or certified copy of the teen’s birth certificate or unexpired U.S. Passport, two original documents with the teen’s name and Indiana residential address, and one original document with the teen’s name and Social Security number.

A learner’s permit allows the teen to drive only with an approved supervisor. The teen must hold the learner’s permit for at least 180 days and complete a minimum of 50 hours of practice driving (including 10 hours at night) with a licensed instructor working under the direction of a driving school, a licensed driver who is at least 25 years old (*and related to the teen by blood, marriage or legal status), or a spouse who is at least 21 years old. * Applies to drivers under 18 years of age.

Probationary License

At age 16 and 90 days, a teen who has passed a driver education course may apply for a probationary license. The teen will be required to pass a driving skills test either through an approved driver education program or at the BMV. The teen must have held the permit for 180 days and completed 50 hours of supervised driving. (Keep track of your practice driving) A parent or guardian must accompany the teen to the license branch to sign all the necessary forms.

A teen who has not passed a driver education course and wants to apply for a probationary license must:  be at least 16 and 270 days old; have held a learner’s permit for 180 days; have completed 50 hours of supervised driving (Keep track of your practice driving), and pass a driving skills test provided through the license branch.  A parent or guardian must accompany the teen to the license branch to sign all the necessary forms.

Teens with probationary driver’s licenses may drive without a parent or supervisor, but must follow certain rules to help keep them safe. For the first 180 days, new drivers  under the age of 21 may not drive with any passengers other than their sibling, step-sibling,  child, step-child and/or their spouse unless they’re accompanied by a parent, guardian, licensed adult age 25 or older, or a certified driver education instructor.  The new driver may not drive between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. After 180 days, the passenger limit expires, however, if the new driver is under age 18, the night limit only relaxes to 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. (Sunday-Thursday nights) and 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. (Friday and Saturday nights). The night limit includes exemptions for trips to school, work, or religious events.  Novice drivers under age 21 may not use a wireless device (handheld or hands-free) for a phone call, text message, or any other purpose other than calling 911. The teen driver and all passengers must wear safety belts.

Unrestricted License

After holding a probationary license for 180 days, or at age 21, novice drivers are eligible for a full unrestricted license.

A parent-teen driving agreement can help you enforce licensing rules that the state and your family set. An agreement helps you and your teen understand the rules of the road and sends a clear message that driving is an earned privilege that your family takes seriously.

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles is in charge of licensing for all drivers in the state and conducts the written exam and road test needed to get a driver’s license. It also provides study materials to help your teen get ready for the exams.

Remind your teen that police can and will enforce all requirements on seat belt use, drinking and driving, and other laws. Breaking the law can lead to fines, license suspension and other penalties.

  • If stopped by the police, teens should present a valid license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
  • Whether stopped as a driver or passenger, teens should always cooperate and be respectful with law enforcement.
  • If in any kind of situation involving law enforcement, teens should talk to their parents about it, because this can create a learning experience.

If your teen gets a ticket or is involved in a crash, it could lead to a court appearance. Judges deal seriously and directly with teen traffic violations. They can assess fines and suspend driving privileges for traffic offenses – even for a first offense, depending on the type of violation.