Massachusetts Learner’s Permit & Junior Operator License

Massachusetts Junior Operator License

Massachusetts Graduated License Law

Graduated license laws have been introduced in most states in U.S. They let new, young drivers practice driving with a supervising adult and impose restrictions to help new drivers minimize the risk of accidents.

Restrictions are removed as young drivers advance from learner’s permits to provisional licenses and finally into unrestricted driver’s licenses.

In Massachusetts, this law is known as the Junior Operator License (JOL) Law. A young driver starts with a learner’s permit and moves through a junior operator license phase before earning a full operator license.

Massachusetts Learner’s Permit

A learner’s permit is required for new drivers, regardless of age. You must complete an application, present the required ID documents, and pay the $30.00 fee.

A permit is issued after you pass the written knowledge test and a vision test.

Knowledge test for Massachusetts learner's permit

The permit exam has 25 multiple-choice questions. Expect questions about alcohol and drugs, JOL violations, common rules of the road, and road signs. To pass the exam, you must answer 18 questions correctly within the allotted time of 25 minutes.

With your learner’s permit you can start driving, but you must, regardless of age, always be accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 21 years of age. The person must also have at least one year of driving experience and occupy the seat beside you.

If you are under 18 years, you may not drive between 12:00 a.m. (midnight) and 5:00 a.m. unless the person beside you is your parent or legal guardian.

When you practice driving you must always carry your learner’s permit with you.

Behind the wheel practice with learner's permit

Massachusetts Junior Operator License (JOL)

If you are between ages 16 1/2 and 18, you must comply with several requirements to obtain a JOL.

  • Complete a Registrar-approved driver education and training program (30 hours of classroom instruction, 12 hours of in-car, behind-the-wheel training; and six hours of in-car experience observing other student drivers.)
  • Hold learner’s permit and maintain a clean driving record for at least six consecutive months before taking the road test.
  • Complete at least 40 hours of supervised, behind-the-wheel driving (30 hours if you completed a driver skills development program).
  • A parent or guardian must participate in two hours of instruction on the driver’s education curriculum.
  • Pass a final exam to have a driver’s education certificate electronically filed with RMV.

The Road Test

road test

For a Class D license, including a JOL, you need a sponsor for your road test. When you arrive at the test location, you must be accompanied by a licensed operator who:

  • Is at least 21 years old.
  • Has had at least one year of driving experience.
  • Has a valid driver’s license issued by his or her home state.

If you are not accompanied by a sponsor, you will not be given the Class D road test.

The vehicle you use for your Class D road test must be safe and in good working order. You must show your vehicle registration to the examiner and the vehicle must be properly inspected. If your vehicle is registered out of state, you must show proof of insurance coverage equal to Massachusetts minimum limits.

JOL License Passenger Restriction

Within the first six months after receiving your JOL, you cannot drive with any passenger under 18 years is in the vehicle.

This restriction doesn’t apply if the passenger is an immediate family member.

You may also carry passengers under 18 if 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.

The passenger restriction is lifted once you complete the six-month period or you reach age 18, whichever occurs first.

JOL License Night Restriction

As the holder of a junior operator license, you are not allowed to drive a motor vehicle between 12:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. (see details in the Massachusetts User’s Manual).

The restriction doesn’t apply if you are accompanied by one of your parents or your legal guardian.

If you violate of this curfew, you may be charged with operating a motor vehicle without being licensed, which is a criminal violation.

Cell Phones and Electronic Devices

You may not use any mobile electronic device for any reason while operating a motor vehicle. The only exception is for reporting an emergency.

Violating Junior Operator License Restrictions

violations and penalties - copyright:  Burmakin Andrey

If you violate the passenger restriction or the night restriction, you will be subject to a license suspension of 60 days for a first offense, 180 days for a second offense, and one year for subsequent offenses. Note that this is an administrative suspension. It comes in addition to any penalties imposed by a court.

For a second or subsequent offense, you will also be required to complete a Driver Attitudinal Retraining course.


Photo credits: stokkete, lopolo, Warren Goldswain, and Burmakin Andrey

About Joni Stark
Business Analyst, Senior Instructor & Project Manager

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