Licensing & State Laws

Ohio’s multi-stage licensing process allows teens to gradually gain exposure to complex driving situations, easing them into driving over an extended period of time.

Temporary Instruction Permit

When your teen turns 15 ½, the teen may apply for a temporary instruction permit. You and your teen need to visit your local Bureau of Motor Vehicles driver licensing exam station and bring a state-certified copy of the teen’s birth certificate. A list of these deputy registrar locations can be found at www.bmv.ohio.gov. Your teen must pass a knowledge and vision test at a driver license exam station and will be given a receipt with a confirmation number. The teen may present the receipt at a BMV deputy registrar’s office within 60 days to receive a temporary instruction permit identification card (TIPIC).

When driving with a TIPIC, a teen younger than 16 must be accompanied by a parent, guardian or licensed driving instructor seated in the front passenger seat. A temporary instruction permit holder age 16 or older may drive with a licensed driver age 21 or older seated in the front passenger seat. Permit holders under age 18 are prohibited from driving a motor vehicle between midnight and 6 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent, guardian or legal custodian who holds a valid license. Drivers must carry their TIPIC with them while operating a vehicle.

Temporary permit holders between the ages of 15 ½ and 18 must receive a minimum of 24 hours of classroom instruction and eight hours of behind-the-wheel instruction in driver training to advance to a probationary license. In addition, they must complete 50 hours of driving with a parent or legal guardian, including at least 10 hours of nighttime driving. Parents or guardians must verify the hours in writing, under penalty of falsification.

The number of vehicle occupants is limited to the total number or originally installed seat belts. All occupants must be wearing seat belts when the vehicle is being driven by a temporary permit holder.

Probationary License

When your teen turns 16 and has had a temporary instruction permit for at least 6 months, the teen can go to the local BMV to take the driving test, which includes maneuverability and a road test. The teen will also need to take a second vision test and provide proof of having completed 50 hours (including 10 at night) of practice driving time. (Keep track of your practice driving) The teen will then receive their probationary license. Make sure a parent or guardian is present to sign the application form or get a parent’s notarized signature on the form ahead of time.

A teen with a probationary license is allowed to drive without a parent, but must follow certain rules to help keep safe. For the first 12 months, license holders may not drive between midnight and 6 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent or guardian, traveling to/from work or school sponsored function, or in an emergency. Drivers holding a probationary license for 12 may not drive between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., with the same exemptions.

License holders who are 16 years old may not drive with more than one non-family passenger unless accompanied by a parent, guardian or legal custodian. At age 17, the driver may have no more passengers than there are seat belts in the vehicle. All occupants must be wearing seat belts when the vehicle is being driven by a probationary license holder.

Suspensions/Restrictions

If a probationary license holder under age 17 is convicted of a moving violation that occurred during the first six months of license issuance, the teen will only be allowed to drive with a parent or guardian for the next 6 months or until age 17, whichever comes first. A temporary instruction permit or probationary license can be suspended for up to one year if the teen is convicted of multiple moving violations or any alcohol-related offense. Ohio’s underage consumption law makes it illegal for a driver under age 21 to drive with a blood alcohol content level of .02 or greater.

Full License

At age 18, a teen is eligible for a full license, provided that probationary license requirements have been met. Night and passenger restrictions are lifted, but parents are encouraged to maintain their own additional rules.

License applicants age 18 or older who fail the required road or maneuverability test must take an abbreviated driver training course prior to attempting the test a second or subsequent time.

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 Ohio Department of Public Safety, through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ Driver Services Program, is in charge of licensing for all drivers in the state. Ohio driver license examinations are administered by the State Highway Patrol. License issuance is handled by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

State and local police enforce traffic laws and investigate crashes. 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. Talk to your teen about these and other consequences, and explain what to do if stopped by police.

  • If stopped by the police, teens should expect to present a valid license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
  • If 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.