Licensing & State Laws

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

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 is riding in the front seat and who has held a driver’s license for at least 5 years. 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 the laws in your 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.

The Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles, through its Driver Services Program, is in charge of licensing for all drivers in the state.

  • Conducts the written exam and road test for your learner’s License and intermediate license.
  • Provides study materials to help you get ready for the exams.
  • 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.