Massachusetts Junior Operator License FAQ


What is a Junior Operator License (JOL)?
A JOL is a license issued to any operator who is between 16.5 years old and 18 years old. This license is subject to extra restrictions, which we will discuss below.


I am going to be 16 soon and want to get my license as soon as possible. How do I start?
In order to obtain a Junior Operator's License, you need to have a learner's permit for at least 6 months. Thus the first thing you should do as soon as you turn 16 is to get your learner's permit. You also need to do the following:

  • Successfully complete driver education including 30 hours of classroom instruction, twelve hours of behind-the-wheel training, six hours of in-car observation, and one parent must attend a two-hour parent's class.
  • You have completed at least an additional 40 hours of supervised driving as shown by a certified statement provided by your parent or guardian
  • You have had a clean driving record for the six months preceding your road test.
  • Once you are finished with all Driver Education requirements, you must request that your driving school order a Driver's Ed certificate from the RMV. You may not take any road test until this completion certificate has been approved and is on file. Thus, you should finish all Driver's Ed requirements at least two to three weeks before you are eligible to take your road test.


    With all the JOL restrictions, why not just wait until age 18?
    That's your choice, but having a license will give you freedom, social and economic opportunities that you may completely miss without a license. If you wait until age 18, instead of being an inexperienced 16 year-old driver, you'll just be an inexperienced 18 year-old driver, statistically there is very little difference. It could also be a very bad idea for a college freshman to be a brand-new driver instead having ~ 1.5 years driving experience.


    What are some of the restrictions of the JOL?
    Under the law, if you are a junior operator (between the ages of 16 1/2 and 18):

  • For the first 6 months of a JOL, you may not drive while any passenger under the age of 18 is in the vehicle (other than an immediate family member), unless you are accompanied by a person who is at least 21 years old, has at least one year of driving experience, holds a valid driver's license from Massachusetts or another state and is occupying a seat beside you.
  • You may not operate a motor vehicle between 12:30AM and 5:00AM unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
  • You may not operate a motor vehicle requiring a commercial driver's license. (NOTE: additional laws may prohibit anyone under 18 years of age from performing a job requiring operation of a motor vehicle or heavy equipment such as fork lifts)
  • Penalties for speeding, drag racing etc. are much more severe than for someone who is over 18, and you will automatically lose your license for at least 90 days if found guilty of one of this type of violation.

  • What are the penalties for JOL violations?
    Please see our JOL Violation Penalties page for details


    What should I do if I get a ticket?
    The choice is yours, but if you pay the ticket you are automatically pleading "guilty" and you will most likely lose your license regardless of any future explanations you may have. If you want to try to keep your license, you will need to appear in court. At this stage, it would be wise to consult an attorney, and not rely solely on information obtained from the internet.


    What is the time limit on completing driver education?
    Massachusetts law gives you a maximum of two years to complete driver education. If you fail to finish within two years, any progress toward completion is forfeited, and the driving school is no longer obligated to provide additional training. You should also note that many driving schools have a stricter limit; a one year contract is common.


    Can an older sister, or an adult neighbor help with the 40 hours' parental supervised driving requirement?
    You may designate any other person to supervise your son or daughter's additional 40 hours of supervised behind-the-wheel driving, as long as the other person is a licensed driver over the age of 21 who has at least one year of driving experience. The driving may be split between authorized supervisors, since the law does not require that only one person provide the additional 40 hours of driving. You may also contract with any driving school offering such services. You must make sure that your son is receiving the required 40 hours of instruction, as you will have to certify under oath on your son's Driver's License application, that he did receive the 40 hours of supervised driving.


    What restrictions am I subject to when operating on my Learner's Permit?

  • You must be accompanied by an operator duly licensed by his state of residence, who is 21 years of age or over, who has had at least one year of driving experience and who is occupying a seat beside the driver.
  • A permit holder who is under the age of 18 may not operate a motor vehicle between the hours of 12:30AM and 5:00AM unless accompanied by his parent or legal guardian, who must be a licensed operator with at least one year of driving experience and whose license or right to operate is not revoked or suspended.
  • The holder of a Learner's Permit may not operate in another state if it is in violation of that state's law.
  • The holder of a motorcycle learner's permit (Class M) may not carry passengers nor operate after sunset or before sunrise.
  • The holder of a learner's permit must have their permit with them whenever driving.

  • I know that I must have a clean driving record for the six months preceding my road test. What would prevent me from having a clean driving record?

  • You had a surchargeable incident under the laws of Massachusetts or another state (at-fault accidents, moving violations, etc.)
  • You had your Learner's Permit suspended for drug or alcohol related motor vehicle violations
  • You had been convicted for the violation of any drug or alcohol related laws in Massachusetts or in another state ("convicted" includes charges that are "continued without a finding" or "placed on file").

  • I have had my Learner's Permit for more than six months. I recently was found at-fault in a car accident. Will I be subject to the requirement that my driving record must be clean for the six-month period immediately preceding the date of the road test?
    Yes. The six month period will be measured from the date of the incident. The six-month waiting period will re-start from the date of the accident, even though you may not be notified of the surcharge until some time after the accident has occurred. If you successfully appeal the surcharge, the RMV will correct its records to reflect the original six month period in the same way as if you were found not responsible for a citation.


    How do I convert an out of state my driver education certificate?
    Obtain an "Application to Convert Out-of-State Driver Education Certificate" from any full-service RMV branch (see the list at the back of the Driver's Manual) or by downloading it at: www.mass.gov/rmv. The out of state driver education program must be equivalent to that in Massachusetts. If you do not qualify, your out-of-state certificate will be returned to you along with a letter denying your application.


    Do I have to pay a separate fee each time I take a road test if I don't pass the first time?
    Yes. The law also limits the holder of a permit to six road tests in a twelve-month period.


    Who is considered to be an "immediate family member" for purposes of the passenger restriction?
    The Massachusetts statute does not define the term, thus is open to interpretation by a judge. One's parents, wife or husband, children, and brothers and sisters are safe. Step-brothers and step-sisters could reasonably be expected to be included, but to date no court decisions have yet decided this issue.


    May a new JOL driver carry friends to and from high school in a car pool or to a prom?
    NO. There is NO exemption from the passenger restriction for ANY school-related activity.


    Can I operate with my Junior Operator's License between the hours of 12:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. with a parent or guardian who doesn't have a license?
    Yes, if a parent is in the vehicle with you it is OK, even if your Mom or Dad is unlicensed. Note that this is different from driving on a permit.


    Can I be a "designated driver" for my mom or dad?
    This can be a bit tricky. If you are driving on a permit, you need to be with someone who has a valid license, and someone who is "under the influence" is not legally entitled to drive, therefore you would be breaking the law on a permit. If you have a JOL, you can be a designated driver at any time of day or night for a parent, even if it is between 12:30AM and 5AM.


    I am over 16.5 years old and just moved here from another state. I received my driver's license in the other state when I was 16 1/2 and have not had a motor vehicle violation. When I convert to a Massachusetts Junior Operator License will I be subject to the six month passenger restriction or any of the other provisions of the JOL Law?
    Yes. You will be subject to all of the provisions of the JOL Law, including the time restrictions, the enhanced penalties and the passenger restriction. However, the period of time you will be subject to the passenger restriction will depend on how long you have been driving in the other state. You will have to provide a certified copy of your driving record (not more than 30 days old) from that state. If the record indicates that you have had a valid license for a full six months, without suspension or revocation, you would not be subject to the passenger restriction at all.


    Can I travel outside of Massachusetts on my Junior Operator's License?
    Yes. It is a driver's license that is entitled to recognition in other states. Obviously, you must obey the traffic laws of the state in which you will be driving.


    I am 16 1/2 years old and I want to get my Massachusetts Motorcycle License (Class M). Can I get the Class M without having to take Driver Education?
    You must meet the same requirements as if you were seeking a Class D passenger vehicle license, including the requirement that you successfully complete a driver education program. The MSF Rider Course does not qualify as a driver education course for this purpose.


    Can we really lose our license for alcohol or drug-related violations, even if we were not operating a vehicle?
    Yes! If you are under 21 years of age, your right to drive will be suspended for six months if you are convicted of buying, attempting to buy, or having someone buy alcoholic beverages for you. Similarly, if you are convicted of any drug offense, whether in Massachusetts or another jurisdiction, Massachusetts law requires that your driver's license be suspended for one to five years, even if no motor vehicle was involved.


    I heard that if I was cited for a JOL speeding violation when I was 17, but didn't get convicted in court for the violation until I had turned 18, that the enhanced penalty cannot apply to me because, having turned 18, I was no longer subject to the JOL law at the time of conviction. Is this true?
    No. You will be subject to the enhanced penalty (automatic loss of license) since the violation was committed at a time when you were the holder of a Junior Operator's License.



    Could my driver's license remain suspended for a passenger restriction committed while I was under 18, even after I reach age 18?
    Yes. If your Junior Operator's License is suspended or revoked for any reason, the length of suspension or revocation will be based on the Junior Operator laws, and will continue until the revocation period ends, regardless of changes in your age.

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