In Ohio, there are different paths for young drivers to obtain a license depending on their age, experience, and purpose for driving.
Beginning at 15 and a half years old, a person can take a written and vision test to obtain a temporary instruction permit. The application must be signed by the teen’s parent who will be held liable for any incidents caused by the teen. This permit allows the licensee to drive as long as an “eligible adult” is in the front seat at all times. Ohio deems an “eligible adult” to be either a licensed driving instructor or the driver’s parent. After turning 16 years old, the teen driver can be supervised by any sober adult who’s at least 21 years of age and holds a valid driver’s license.
Instruction permit holders are prohibited from driving between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. unless supervised by a parent. All passengers in the vehicle must have seat belts.
A motorized bicycle instruction permit is available to 14-year-olds.
All instruction permit holders under 18 years old are prohibited from cellphone use while driving.
With parental approval, 16-year-olds who have held an instruction permit for six months can take a driving test to obtain a probationary license. The applicant must have completed an approved driver’s education course and at least 50 hours of supervised driving time (ten of those being at night). A probationary license holder is generally allowed to drive unsupervised but is still subject to certain restrictions including a complete ban on cellphone use while driving.
For the first 12 months of holding a probationary license, the motorist can’t drive between midnight and 6 a.m. and can have only one non-family passenger. The passenger restriction is waived when accompanied by a parent, and the curfew is waived when the teen has documentation that he or she is driving to or from a work, school, or religious activity.
After the first 12 months, the driver can’t drive between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent. The same exceptions exist if the teen has documentation that he or she is driving to or from a work, school, or religious activity.
Violation of the license restrictions is a minor misdemeanor. For violators under 17 years old, the court can restrict the teen to drive only with parental supervision for up to six months or until the teen turns 17 years old (whichever comes first). A second offense can result in the termination of the probationary license altogether. Violation of the cellphone ban will result in a $150 fine and a 60-day license suspension.
Minors who have been adjudicated as “unruly or delinquent” are prohibited from obtaining a probationary license.
Hardship licenses are available for 14- and 15-year-olds who show satisfactory proof of hardship to the registrar of motor vehicles. If obtained, the license is the same as a probationary license and subject to the same restrictions.
Before any driver can operate a vehicle in Ohio, the vehicle must be properly insured. Ohio requires a minimum liability policy of $25,000 bodily injury per person, $50,000 bodily injury per accident, and $25,000 property damage per accident.
Failure to show proof of valid insurance results in suspension of the driver’s license, license plate, and registration until proof of insurance is shown and all fees are paid. For a first offense, the driver must also pay a $100 license reinstatement fee. A second offense within five years carries a $300 reinstatement fee and a minimum one-year driver’s license suspension. A third offense in five years will result in a $600 reinstatement fee and a minimum two-year license suspension.