Licensing & State Laws

Are you legally allowed to drive without supervision now? Learn more about Rhode Island’s multi-stage licensing process.

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. Parents or guardians of applicants must also complete a short course on the learning-to-drive process. 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.

With a limited instruction permit, you 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 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.  You and all of your passengers must wear seat belts at all times.

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.  All drivers are prohibited from text messaging while driving.

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 those of the state.

The Community College of Rhode Island is responsible for the administration of classroom driver education programs throughout the state.  The Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles is in charge of road tests and licensing.  The DMV also oversees commercial driving schools, though in-car driving instruction is not a requirement in Rhode Island. Visit the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles for more information.

Police enforce life-saving traffic laws related to seat belt use, drinking and driving, teen licensure and speeding, among others. If you violate those laws, you will be punished. Breaking the law can lead to fines, license suspension and other penalties.

  • Expect to present your driver’s license, the vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
  • Always cooperate and be respectful with law enforcement, whether you’re the driver or a passenger.
  • Talk to your parent about what happened.

If you get a ticket or are in a crash, it could lead to a court appearance and many unpleasant consequences.

  • Fines
  • Suspended driving privileges
  • Driver’s license points
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Court costs
  • Insurance rate increases

The Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles, through its Driver Services Program, is in charge of licensing for all drivers in the state, not just teen drivers.