Licensing & State Laws

Massachusetts’ 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 learner’s permit and junior operator’s license are key steps.

Learner’s Permit

At age 16, teens may apply for a learner’s permit at a full service Registry of Motor Vehicles office. Teens must bring proof of identification and be accompanied by a parent or guardian. After completing an application, teens must pass a 25 question written/computer based exam and a vision test to obtain the permit.

Learner’s permits allow teens to drive accompanied by a licensed driver at least 21 years old with at least one year’s driving experience. Teens may begin classroom driver education as young as age 15 years and 9 months, but may not begin driving until age 16. During the learner’s permit phase, teens are required to complete 40 hours of practice driving while supervised by a licensed driver age 21 or older.

Junior Operator’s License

At age 16 ½, teens may apply for a junior operator’s license. To do so, they must have completed all the requirements of driver education (30 hours classroom, 12 hours behind-the-wheel, 6 hours in-car observation and parent attendance at a two-hour parent class), completed an additional 40 hours of supervised practice driving (30 hours for applicants who have successfully completed a driver skills development program in a closed, off-road course) and held the learner’s permit with a clean driving record for at least six months. Upon successful completion of the driving test, teens will then be issued a junior operator’s license.

Teens holding a junior operator’s license may not drive with any passengers under age 18 (other than an immediate family member) for the first 6 months unless accompanied by a licensed driver at least 21 years old.  They may not drive between 12:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. The minimum age at which restrictions may be lifted is age 17 for passenger restrictions and age 18 for nighttime restrictions.

Full License

At age 18, teens who have held a junior operator license for at least 12 months are eligible for an unrestricted driver’s 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 Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles is in charge of licensing for all drivers in the state and is responsible for the following:

  • Conducting  written exams and road tests
  • Regulating driving schools
  • Keeping track of license status and license suspensions for violations

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.