Ohio New Resident Guide

Welcome to the Buckeye State – Ohio! As you prepare to drive through Ohio's rich landscapes, from the rolling Appalachian foothills to the vibrant urban centers like Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati, it's important to get acquainted with the state's specific traffic laws and driving customs. This concise guide is designed to assist you in safely navigating Ohio's roads and highways. While many of Ohio's driving regulations may seem familiar, the state has its nuances, such as variable speed limits in certain zones and specific rules regarding the use of red light cameras, that you'll need to be aware of for a safe and enjoyable journey across this diverse state.


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Licensing and Residency Requirements


  • Notification of change of address is to be made to the registrar within 10 days following the change.
  • Once you are an Ohio resident, you need to become an official Ohio driver as soon as possible. You are considered an Ohio resident once you: take a job, sign a lease, buy a home, register to vote, or enroll children in school.

Graduated Licensing Program


Temporary Instruction Permit Identification Card


  • Must be at least 15 and 6 months;
  • Must pass vision and written tests.

Privileges and Restrictions

  • Must be accompanied by a licensed parent, guardian, or certified driving instructor who occupies the seat beside the driver.
  • Once the holder is 16, may drive with a valid licensed driver 21 years of age or older, but may not drive between midnight and 6 AM unless supervised by a parent or guardian.


Probationary Driver License


  • Must be at least 16;
  • Must have accumulated at least 50 hours (10 at night) of certified practice driving;
  • Must have completed driver training course;
  • Must pass road test.

Privileges and Restrictions

  • If under age 17, may not drive between midnight and 6 AM unless traveling to or from work or school, and may not have more than 1 non-family member as a passenger unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.
  • If 17 or older, may not drive unsupervised between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. unless traveling to or from work or school functions.


Unrestricted License


  • Must be 18;
  • Must have completed probationary license stage;
  • Must have remained traffic and alcohol violation-free for at least 12 months.

Violation Point Counts


6 Point Violations

  • Homicide by vehicle
  • Operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or any drug of abuse
  • Failure to stop and disclose identity at the scene of a collision
  • Willingly fleeing or eluding a law enforcement officer
  • Racing
  • Operating a vehicle without the consent of the owner
  • Using a vehicle in the commission of a felony, or committing any crime punishable as a felony under Ohio motor vehicle laws


4 Point Violations

  • Willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property


2 Point Violations

  • All moving violations and some speed offenses
  • Operating a motor vehicle in violation of a restriction imposed by the Registrar of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles


Speeding Violations

A speeding violation may result in four points, two points or no points depending on the speed limit in effect and the number of miles per hour (mph) by which the speed limit was exceeded:

  • Exceeding any speed limit by 30 MPH or more results in four points
  • If the speed limit is 55 MPH or more, exceeding the limit by more than 10 but less than 30 MPH results in two points
  • If the speed limit is less than 55 MPH, exceeding the limit by more than five but less than 30 MPH results in two points
  • Exceeding any speed limit in an amount less than stated above results in no points


Subsequent Offenses

Should a driver be convicted of a second or subsequent offense within 2 years after the first violation, the point assessment for the new violation is added to the previous total.


2-Point Credit

A person who has accumulated 2 to 11 points for traffic violations may earn a two-point credit towards his or her driving record by completing an approved remedial driving course.

A driver who has accumulated 6 points in 2 years will receive a warning letter.

If a driver accumulates 12 or more points in 2 years:

  • Driving privileges will be suspended for 6 months
  • Proof of financial responsibility must be filed with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and maintained for 3 - 5 years
  • After the suspension is served, a remedial driving course must be taken.
  • Pay a reinstatement fee of $40
  • Must take the complete driver exam

Insurance Requirements


To comply with the law, the following liability coverage is required:

  • $25,000 - $50,000 for personal injury or death.
  • $25,000 for property damage.

You may, as an alternative, post a personal bond to cover liability at that level, establish a $30,000 certificate of deposit with the State Treasurer, or file a certificate of self-insurance when you own more than 25 motor vehicles.

In Ohio, it is illegal to drive any motor vehicle without insurance or other financial responsibility (FR) proof. It is also illegal for any motor vehicle owner to allow anyone else to drive the owner's vehicle without FR proof.

Headlight Laws


When you are closely following another vehicle and another vehicle is approaching yours, be sure to dim your headlights. Use the upper beams only for driving in an open country with a clear road ahead.

You must dim your headlights from high to low beam when you are approaching an oncoming vehicle, or when following another vehicle.

You must use your headlights:

  • Between sunset and sunrise;
  • During any period of rain, snow, fog, or other unfavorable atmospheric conditions - regardless of the time of day;
  • At any other time when natural light conditions do not make it possible to see objects 1,000 feet ahead clearly;
  • At any time windshield wipers are used.
  • In 1972 and 1976, Ohio courts ruled that flashing one's headlights to alert oncoming drivers of a radar trap does not constitute obstructing a police officer in the performance of his duties, where there was no proof that the warned vehicles were speeding before the warning. (Akron v. Matteson, Warrensville Hts V. Wason)
  • In 1994, the Court of Appeals of Ohio decided that a city ordinance prohibiting flashing, oscillating, or rotating lights on any vehicles other than emergency and other specialty vehicles did not apply to the flashing of one's headlights. (Kirtland Hills v. Garcia)

Implied Consent Laws



  • First Refusal (minor misdemeanor) - Not more than $100.
  • Second refusal (within 1 year - fourth-degree misdemeanor) - Not more than 30 days and not more than $250.
  • Third and subsequent refusals (within 1 year of first - third-degree misdemeanor) - Not more than 60 days and not more than $500.



  • First refusal - Suspension 1 year (limited driving privileges after mandatory 30 days).
  • Second refusal (within 6 years) - Suspension 2 years (limited driving privileges after mandatory 90 days).
  • Third refusal (within 6 years) - Suspension 3 years (limited driving privileges after mandatory 1 year).
  • Subsequent refusal (within 6 years) - Suspension 5 years (no limited driving privileges during the period of suspension).
  • Except as noted, limited driving privileges may be granted after the mandatory period of license suspension has passed.

DUI Penalties


First Conviction (misdemeanor 1st degree)

  • Up to 6 months imprisonment.
  • $375 - $1,075 fine.
  • 6 months - 3 years license suspension.
  • Court may require alcohol education/treatment.
  • Court may order ignition interlock device.


Second Conviction (within 6 years) (misdemeanor 1st degree)

  • Up to 6 months imprisonment.
  • $525 - $1,675 fine.
  • 1 - 5 years license suspension.
  • Court may require alcohol education/treatment.
  • Court may order ignition interlock device.


Third Conviction (within 6 years) (an unclassified misdemeanor)

  • Up to 1 year imprisonment.
  • $850 - $2,750 fine.
  • 2 - 10 years license suspension.
  • Court will require alcohol education/treatment.
  • Court may order ignition interlock device.


Fourth Conviction (within 6 years, or 5 or more convictions within 20 years) (fourth-degree felony)

  • Up to 5 years imprisonment.
  • $1,350 - $10,500 fine.
  • 3 years license suspension or permanent revocation.
  • Court will require alcohol education/treatment.
  • Court may order ignition interlock device.


Child Endangerment

  • It is a separate offense to operate a motor vehicle in violation of the drunk-driving laws when one or more children under age 18 are in the vehicle
    • First offense - Up to 6 months imprisonment, up to $1,000 fine, license suspension up to 1 year.

Open Container Law


The Open Container Law prohibits possession of an open alcoholic beverage container in the passenger area of any motor vehicle, by any occupant of the vehicle, on any public highway or right of way, whether or not the vehicle is in motion.

Red Light Violation Fines


  • Ohio does not have a state law governing red light fines or the use of traffic cameras for red light enforcement.
  • Some red light camera programs are operating under local ordinances.

Construction Zone Penalties


Speeding violations when workers are present are subject to two times the original fine.

Turn Signal Information


Signal your intention to turn or change lanes at least 100 feet in advance.

Hazard Light Information


Hazard light use is permitted to warn other drivers of the presence of a vehicular traffic hazard requiring the exercise of unusual care in approaching, overtaking, or passing.

Funeral Procession Right-of-Way Laws


  • All vehicles in a funeral procession must operate with headlights lit and displaying a purple and white pennant.
  • Pedestrians and other vehicles, except emergency vehicles or vehicles directed by a police officer, must yield right-of-way to the procession.
  • The other vehicles in the procession can follow the lead vehicle that lawfully entered the intersection regardless of the traffic signal, provided they exercise due care.

School Bus Laws



  • Vehicles are required to stop unless the bus is on the other side of a 4-lane roadway.
  • Vehicles must stop at least 10 feet from the front or rear of the bus.



  • Failure to stop and remain stopped when required will result in a fine of up to $500, license suspension, and a mandatory court appearance.

Bicyclist Passing Distance


There is no specific law regarding minimum safe passing distance.

Motorcycle Laws



  • The same age requirements apply to motorcycle licenses as driver's licenses.
  • An applicant for a motorcycle operator's endorsement or a restricted license that permits only the operation of a motorcycle shall give an actual demonstration of the ability to exercise ordinary and reasonable control in the operation of a motorcycle by driving the same under the supervision of an examining officer unless the applicant can show proof of successful completion within the preceding 60 days of a course of basic instruction provided by the motorcycle safety and education program approved by the director.


Protective Gear

  • Each rider must wear safety glasses or other protective eye device.
  • No person who is under the age of 18 years, or who holds a motorcycle operator's endorsement or license bearing a "novice," shall operate a motorcycle on a highway, or be a passenger on a motorcycle, unless wearing a protective helmet on his or her head, and no other person shall be a passenger on a motorcycle operated by such a person unless similarly wearing a protective helmet.



  • Daytime use of headlight not required.


Sharing the Road

  • Lane splitting is not authorized.
  • Two motorcycles may travel side-by-side in a single lane.

Using the Shoulder to Pass


You may not drive off the roadway to pass on the right.

Passing Laws


Do Not Pass:

  • When approaching or upon a hill or curve.
  • When approaching within 100 feet of or traversing any intersection or railroad grade crossing.
  • When approaching within 100 feet of any bridge, viaduct, or tunnel.


When Being Passed:

  • Give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle.
  • The overtaking vehicle may signal by honking its horn.
  • Do not increase the speed of your vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

Speed Limits


  • 65 mph on certain interstate and State freeways and rural highways;
  • 55 mph for vehicles weighing more than 8,000 lbs., empty weight and noncommercial buses on interstate and State freeways;
  • 55 mph on other freeways inside and outside of municipal corporations;
  • 55 mph on highways outside of municipal corporations except for certain freeways;
  • 50 mph (prima facie speed limit) on State routes within municipal corporations outside urban districts, controlled-access highways, and expressways within municipal corporations;
  • 35 mph (prima facie speed limit) on State routes and through highways;
    • This speed limit applies within municipal corporations outside business districts but does not include controlled-access highways and expressways within municipal corporations or State routes within municipal corporations outside urban districts.
  • 25 mph (prima facie speed limit) on municipal corporation streets;
    • This does not include State routes outside business districts, through highways outside business districts, and alleys.
  • 20 mph (prima facie speed limit) in school zones during recess or when children are going to or leaving school;
  • 15 mph (prima facie speed limit) on alleys within a municipal corporation.

Safety Belt and Child Safety Seat Laws


Safety Belts

  • Occupants 8 - 14 years in any seat, and occupants 15 years or older in the front seat only, must wear safety belts.
  • Police may not stop vehicles solely for belt law violations.
  • The fine for a first offense is $30 if the driver is not wearing a seatbelt, and $20 for each passenger not wearing a seatbelt.


Child Seats

  • Children 3 years and younger or less than 40 pounds must be in a child restraint.
  • Children 4 - 7 years who weigh 40 pounds or more and who are shorter than 57 inches must be in a booster seat.
  • Children 8 - 14 years must be restrained and may use an adult safety belt.
  • Police may not stop a vehicle solely for a child seat law violation if the child not wearing a seatbelt is 8 - 14 years old, but may stop a vehicle for any other child seat violation.
  • The fine for a first offense is $75.

Emergency Vehicle Laws


Move Over

  • When you see any of these vehicles displaying flashing lights while stopped on or adjacent to the roadway:
    • Emergency vehicle
    • Public safety vehicle
    • Road service vehicle
    • Highway maintenance vehicle
  • You must do the following:
    • If on a highway with at least 2 lanes that carry traffic in the same direction of travel as that of the driver's motor vehicle, make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the vehicle.
    • If on a different type of highway, or if changing lanes would be impossible or unsafe, reduce the speed of the vehicle and maintain a safe speed for road, weather, and traffic conditions.



  • Do not follow any emergency vehicle or public safety vehicle traveling in response to an alarm closer than 500 feet, or drive into or park within the block where the fire apparatus has stopped in answer to a fire alarm.


Collision Procedures

  • Stop at the scene or as close as possible without obstructing traffic more than necessary, and remain at the scene until all requirements are fulfilled
  • You must provide the following information to any other person involved in the accident, or any police officer at the scene of the crash:
    • Driver's name and address
    • Owner's name and address, the driver is not the owner
    • Vehicle registration number
    • Show driver's license upon request
  • If none of the other people involved in the accident are in a condition to receive the information you are required to give them, and no police officer is present, you must immediately notify the nearest police authority and remain at the scene until an officer arrives.
  • Unattended vehicle or property
    • If you have collided with an unattended vehicle, leave a written notice providing the required information.
    • If you have collided with other unattended property on or adjacent to a highway, locate and notify the owner of the driver's name and address, the vehicle registration number, and show your driver's license if requested. If the owner cannot be located, report the required information along with the location of the accident and a description of the damage to the appropriate police department.