What Is a Probationary License?

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Anyone who thinks that a probationary license is limited to individuals who are on criminal probation would be entirely wrong, but the two uses of the term "probation" are actually related. Both involve a period of proving oneself, of showing that someone knows the rules of the road and will follow them. In the case of a probationary license, this can be taken literally because it's a driving privilege that allows a new driver to demonstrate that she's ready for the freeway.

How to Get a Probationary License

States often impose special requirements on their permissions when they allow teens to drive, making sure that they have adequate driving skills before they hit downtown streets or the freeways. Each state fashions a set of laws to meet this end, often including:

  • Driver's education requirements.
  • A period of driving with a permit with a licensed adult in the car.
  • Logged time driving under supervision or similar restrictions for young drivers.

Of course, teen drivers also have to follow the regular traffic laws, including speed laws, passing, parking and turning regulations, and the motor vehicles departments in some states regulate teen drivers by labeling the permission they receive as "probationary."

Some Examples of Probationary Licenses

Indiana allows young people who are at least 16 years old to apply for driving privileges in the state, but the Indiana driver's license they receive is considered probationary if they're under the age of 21 years. Other states, like New York and Connecticut, do much the same thing without calling the license "probationary."

A young person must be at least 16 years old and three months to obtain a probationary license in Indiana if they've passed a driver's education class, or 16 years old and 9 months if they haven't. Young people must pass the permit test and hold the permit for at least six months before applying for a probationary license, driving only with an adult passenger in the car and maintaining a supervised driving log.

They must pass the driving skills test and the vision test, and they must also get a parent or other adult to co-sign for financial liability. Further, they must have a photo taken and pay the fees involved.

How Long Does a Probationary License Last?

Again, each state has its own rules for how long a probationary license lasts. A young person's license is considered probationary until she turns 21 years old in Indiana. The license can be renewed after the driver turns 21, and it expires 30 days following the driver's 21st birthday.

Can a Probationary License Be Suspended?

A probationary license comes with restrictions, and it can be suspended for violations. A driver in Indiana will have quite a few rules, and violation of any of them can result in a license suspension. Of course, a probationary license can also be suspended for all of the usual reasons, such as getting a DUI, driving without insurance, or racking up too many moving violations.

Those driving on probationary licenses cannot use any type of telecommunication device while driving other than making calls to 911, the emergency number. A probationary driver cannot drive at night between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. during the first 180 days, and he can't drive during certain night hours after that.

Likewise, a probationary license only lets a driver travel alone to or from work, a school-sanctioned activity or a religious event. Otherwise, he must have a licensed driver who is at least 25 years old as a passenger in the front seat of the vehicle. If the young driver is married, a spouse at least 21 years old with driving privileges can serve as the passenger.


  • A probationary license is a restricted driver's license issued to young drivers after they have held their permit for the required time and met other requirements.

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