Licensing & State Laws

To get your driver’s license in Ohio, you’ll move through three licensing stages. As you progress, you’ll also need your parents’ permission at each step.

Temporary Instruction Permit

When you turn 15½, you may apply for a temporary permit. You must visit a driver license exam station to take a knowledge and vision test. A list of locations is available from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. When you pass, you will receive a receipt with a confirmation number to present to your local BMV deputy registrar office. You must come with a parent or guardian and bring a state-certified copy of your birth certificate. The deputy registrar will issue you your temporary permit.

When driving with a temporary permit, you must be accompanied by a parent, guardian or licensed driving instructor seated in the front passenger seat until you turn 16 years old. When you are 16, you may drive with a licensed driver age 21 or older seated in the front passenger seat. You must carry your temporary instruction permit identification card (TIPIC) with you while driving.

You may not drive with more passengers than the total number or originally installed seat belts and all passengers must be wearing seat belts. You may not drive between midnight and 6 a.m. unless accompanied by a licensed parent, guardian or legal custodian. You must receive a minimum of 24 hours of classroom instruction and eight hours of behind-the-wheel instruction in driver training. In addition, you must complete 50 hours of driving with a parent or legal guardian, including at least 10 hours of nighttime driving. Your parents or guardians must verify the hours in writing.

Probationary License

When you turn 16 and have had your temporary permit for at least 6 months, you can go to your local BMV to take the driving test. You’ll also need to take a second vision test and provide proof that you completed 50 hours of practice driving time. Once you complete these requirements, you can receive your probationary license. Make sure a parent comes with you to sign the application form or get your parent’s notarized signature on the form ahead of time.

When you have a probationary license, you’re allowed to drive without a parent, but you must follow certain rules to help keep you safe. If you have held a probationary license for less than 12 months, you may not drive between midnight and 6 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. Exceptions are granted for driving to or from work (must have in immediate possession written documentation from the employer), to or from a school activity, or in an emergency. You may also not drive with more than one passenger who is not a family member unless accompanied by a parent, guardian or legal custodian.

After holding a probationary driver’s license for 12 months, you may not drive between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent or guardian with the same exceptions as above. You may not have more passengers than the total number of originally installed seat belts and all passengers must be wearing seat belts. The probationary license is valid until age 18.

Suspensions/Restrictions

If you are under 17 and have a probationary license, and if you are convicted of having committed a moving violation during the first 6 months of license issuance, you must then only drive when accompanied by a parent or guardian for the next 6 months or until you turn 17, whichever comes first.

Your temporary permit or probationary license can be suspended for periods of up to one year if you are convicted of multiple moving violations or any alcohol-related offense. If your temporary permit or probationary license is suspended, you must meet a number of requirements before your permit or license can be returned, including completion of a juvenile driver improvement program and retaking the driver’s examination.  Ohio’s “zero tolerance” 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, you are eligible for a full license if you have successfully completed the probationary license requirements.

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.

Now is a good time to set up a parent-teen driving agreement to help you and your parents establish expectations related to both their rules and the laws in your state.

The Ohio Department of Public Safety, Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles through its 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, which provides study materials to help you get ready for the exams and keeps track of your license status and can suspend your license if you get too many tickets, don’t keep insurance on your car or commit other violations.

Your parents will do most of the rule setting and enforcement as you learn to drive. But state and local police are involved, too.

Police enforce traffic laws and investigate crashes. By enforcing traffic laws and requirements on seat belt use, distracted driving, drinking and driving, and teen licensing laws, police keep everyone on the road safer. Breaking the law can lead to fines, license suspension and other penalties.

  • If pulled over by the police, expect to present your driver’s license, the vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
  • If stopped as a driver or passenger, always cooperate and be respectful with law enforcement.
  • If in any kind of situation involving law enforcement, talk to your parents about it immediately afterward.

If you get a ticket or are involved in a crash, you may need to appear in court, whether you believe you were at fault or not. This is serious stuff: Judges often assess fines and suspend driving privileges for traffic offenses.

Police and courts are there when things go wrong. You and your parents can help keep things right.

  • Use a parent-teen driving agreement.
  • Keep your parents in the know about who you ride with.
  • Let your parents know when and where you’re headed.