Operator Manuals

Rhode Island Driver's Manual

The Rhode Island Driver’s Manual will help prepare you for your written permit test and road test, or help you review the rules of the road.

Download the PDF Print Version

Open and download a full PDF print version of the Driver's Manual here:

Use the Online Version

We've made the Rhode Island Driver's Manual easier to use by creating an online version. The online version is divided into chapters, making navigation, and studying for the permit test more convenient. While encompassing all details from the PDF print version, the online version enables targeted study of testing materials. Additionally, our website's Google Translate integration makes translation into multiple languages possible. Relevant information for testing is clearly highlighted.

Rhode Island has a graduated licensing system for persons under age eighteen (18) wishing to drive a motor vehicle. The three levels of the graduated licensing system are: Learner instructional permit, Learner provisional license and full operator’s license. They are described on the RI DMV website.


For information on getting a Learner Instructional Permit, including information on driving schools, click here.

For information on the documents needed to obtain a Learner Permit, click here.

For information on preparing for and taking a Road Test, click here.

For information on transferring from Out of State to Rhode Island, click here.

For information on Drivers' Privilege Cards, click here.



The following section contains suggested methods of handling common driving emergencies. Please keep in mind that every emergency situation varies, and these suggestions may not be applicable to all emergencies.

A. How to Avoid Skidding

B. How to Control a Vehicle in a Skid

C. Total Brake Failure

D. Blowout or Flat Tire

E. Stuck Accelerator

F. Engine Failure

G. Off Road Recovery

H. Threat of a Head-On Collision

I. Threat of a Side-Impact Collision

J. Threat of a Rear-End Collision

K. Headlight Failure

L. Vehicle Stalls on Railroad Tracks

M. Vehicle Catches Fire

N. Vehicle in Water

O. Driving in Inclement Weather

P. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Defensive driving is the art of protecting yourself and others from dangerous and unexpected changes in the driving environment. The defensive driver anticipates actions of other roadway users and is ready to adjust speed and position accordingly. The defensive driver also adjusts to changes in weather and road conditions. The driver can learn to develop driving habits and skills by following the additional systems described below:

  1. IPDE: The IPDE system is a ‘thinking-doing’ process. IPDE can help you to avoid collisions. With practice, this process will become automatic. IPDE will also help you become a defensive driver.

    Identify: Locate any hazards in the driving scene by getting the big picture. THINK!

    Predict: Judge where possible points of conflict may occur. THINK!

    Decide: Determine the actions to take and when and where to take them. THINK!

    Execute: Act by maneuvering the vehicle to avoid any conflict. DO!

  2. ZONES: The zone system consists of six (6) zones (areas of space) around your vehicle, that is the width of a lane extending as far as the driver can see. Being aware of open zones and closed zones around your vehicle can help you avoid collisions and become a defensive driver.

    • Open zone: A area you can drive without restrictions to your line of sight or intended path of travel.
    • Closed zone: A area that is not because of restrictions in your line of sight or intended path of travel.

  3. ORDERLY VISUAL SEARCH PATTERN: The orderly visual search pattern will help you develop your own process for identifying trouble while driving. It is a process of searching critical areas in a regular sequence for clues or conflicts in and around your intended path of travel.

    • Check your line of sight and path of travel ahead.
    • Evaluate your front zones in the 12-15 second target area (this refers to the area you will be in after you have traveled for 12-15 seconds) by searching intersections, driveways, and parked vehicles for possible changes in your line of sight and path of travel.
    • Glance in your mirrors to check your rear zones.
    • Evaluate your 4-6 second range for any changes to your path of travel.
    • Look ahead again to another 12-15 second range.
    • Evaluate your 4-6 second range for any changes to your path of travel.
    • Glance in your mirrors.
    • Glance at your speedometer and gauges.
    • Continue the sequence again as you drive


  4. MR. SMITH: Mr. Smith is Harold L. Smith, who developed this system in 1952 based on a “space-cushion” principle, which manipulates space to provide a cushion between your vehicle and everything else on the road. It is an internationally recognized safety system. The Smith System has five (5) keys to collision free driving.

    • Leave Yourself an Out: Situations may occur that you don’t plan on. Keep plenty of space between you and the next vehicle.
    • Aim High In Steering: Don’t look down at your fender or hood but ahead 4 to 6 seconds (the space you will travel in 4-6 seconds) and 12 to 15 seconds ahead at the middle of your driving lane.
    • Get The Overall Picture: Look ahead a full block in cities/towns and half a mile ahead on highways. You want to see everything in the space you are moving into, along with the vehicles you see ahead of you.
    • Keep Your Eyes Moving: Don’t look at one thing. Develop the art of scanning and glancing, continually and quickly. Look ahead, look at the side, and look in your rear and side mirrors.
    • Make Sure They See You: See and be seen by other roadway users. Don’t take for granted that others can see your vehicle. Tap your horn or flick your headlights if you need to.


A. The Three (3) Second Rule – Following Distance

B. Point of No Return

C. Lane Positions

Driving a motor vehicle is a privilege and not a right. A license to drive brings with it a serious responsibility for the safety of others and yourself. It has been said often that ‘the life you save may be your own’. Always drive defensively and carefully. If you do, you will have many years of enjoyment on the road.