Rhode Island uses a graduated license system that requires teens to hold an instruction permit and provisional license before obtaining an unrestricted license.
Before obtaining any permit or license, Rhode Island teens must complete a driver's education course certified and approved by the Rhode Island Community College. Teens who are 15 years and ten months old can take the course, which includes 33 hours of instruction. Students are permitted to operate a dual-control vehicle (with an instructor) without a permit while on the driver's education course.
After completing driver's education and turning 16 years old, Rhode Island teens can apply for a limited instruction permit by submitting the application, proof of residency, and a birth certificate to the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. The teen's parent must sign the application at the DMV or before a notary. The signing parent will be liable for any negligence or misconduct of the applicant. The applicant must then pass the vision exam and a test covering Rhode Island traffic signs and traffic laws to receive the instruction permit.
A limited instruction permit authorizes the holder to drive only with a supervising driver in the front seat. Rhode Island defines a supervising driver as a parent, guardian, or certified instructor who has been licensed for at least five years. All occupants must wear seatbelts.
Driving without a supervised adult is considered driving without a license. All other restriction violations are infractions. Infraction violations carry an $85 fine for a first offense, a $95 fine for a second violation, and a $100 fine for a third violation.
The teen must hold a limited instruction permit for six months without any traffic violations before applying for a limited provisional license. The teen must also submit a driver's log signed by a parent indicating 50 hours of supervised driving time (including ten nighttime hours). With all the requirements satisfied, the teen can take the driving test to obtain a limited provisional license.
The limited provisional license permits the holder to drive unsupervised but only:
For the first 12 months, a limited provisional license holder can transport only one non-family member passenger under 21 years old. All passengers must always wear seatbelts.
A violation of the curfew restriction is charged as driving without a license. Any other violation of the provisional license restrictions will be an infraction and carry an $85 fine for a first offense, a $95 fine for a second offense, and a $100 fine for a third offense.
After turning 17 years old, a teen can apply for an unrestricted license if the teen has held a limited provisional license for 12 months and has no traffic violations or seatbelt tickets in the past six months.
All teens are also prohibited from using a cellphone while driving. Violations carry a $100 fine for a first offense and $150 fine for a second offense. A third offense results in a $250 fine and the teen will lose all driving privileges until 18 years old.
Before any driver can lawfully operate a vehicle in Rhode Island, the vehicle must be properly insured. Rhode Island mandatory liability insurance must include at least $25,000 bodily injury per person, $50,000 bodily injury per accident, and $25,000 property damage per accident. This includes a $75,000 combined single limit.
Failure to have a valid insurance is a civil violation, with the following penalties:
The driver's license won't be reinstated until he or she shows proof of valid insurance.