Licensing & State Laws

Rhode Island’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. The limited instruction permit and provisional license stages are key steps.

Limited Instruction Permit

At age 16, teens may apply for a limited instruction permit. Applicants under age 18 will need to have completed a 33-hour classroom driver education course certified by the Community College of Rhode Island. Teens may begin classroom driver education when they reach the age of 15 years, 10 months. Applicants for permits must show a certified birth certificate, a driver education certificate and a Social Security card. A parent, legal guardian, or licensed foster parent must either accompany the teen to show ID and sign the permit application or the teen must arrive with the parent/guardian signature notarized on the application.

Teens with a limited instruction permit may only drive when accompanied by a licensed driver age 21 or older who has held a driver’s license for at least 5 years and who is riding in the front seat. The limited instruction permit is valid for one year. A road test will be scheduled approximately 6 months from the date you obtain your permit.

Limited Provisional License

Teens with limited provisional licenses may drive by themselves except for between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. For the first 12 months, they may not drive with more than one passenger under age 21. These restrictions do not apply if the provisional license holder is being supervised by a licensed driver age 21 or older who has held a driver’s license for at least 5 years who is riding in the front seat. Drivers under 18 are prohibited from using a cell phone (handheld or hands-free) while driving.

Full License

At age 17 and 6 months, teens may get a full operator’s license if they have held a provisional license for at least 12 months and not received a moving or seat belt violation in the last 6 months. Night and passenger limits do not apply to teens with full licenses, although AAA encourages parents to continue to set their own additional rules. They remain prohibited from using a cell phone while driving until age 18.

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.

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.