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Several years ago, a teen driver without a license caused a traffic accident that killed five people. The teen was traveling home from Knott’s Scary Farm in a BMW. Unfortunately, this incident isn’t unique; there are many others like it in California and across the country. These sad stories have led to many questions about the CA traffic laws directly affecting teen drivers. This isn’t surprising; according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the fatality rate of 16- to 19-year-old drivers is three times the rate of drivers in their 20s and older. Perhaps as a result, in 2006, California put significant restrictions on what teen drivers could do. Young drivers must use a provisional license until they are 18 years old.

Restrictions for Teen Drivers

What are those restrictions? If a new driver has young passengers in the car or is driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., there must be a parent, guardian, teacher, or licensed driver (aged 25 or more) in the car. Drivers under the age of 18 cannot use any type of electronic communication device while driving, including hands-free devices. Provisional licenses also apply to teens on motorcycles; no passengers are permitted on the bikes, driving is restricted to daylight hours, and the bikes are not allowed on freeways.

Penalties for Violation of Provisional Restrictions

The penalties for violating any of the provisional license restrictions include a 30-day restriction from driving when a teen earns two or more violations within a year. As teens earn more points, the consequences become more severe, license suspension and probation. Service in the community may also be required. Additionally, the parents or guardians of a teen who violates the provisional license terms could be financial responsible for thousands of dollars in fines.

Exemptions to Provisional Licenses

There are some exceptions to the need for a provisional license for some teen drivers. If a teen driver is granted one of these exceptions, the signed note verifying exemption must be keep in the teen’s possession. These exemptions may include medical-related transportation, school activities, the operation of vehicles for work or for family needs, and proven emancipation. Teens who drive without a provisional license in an emergency will find they are subject to the officer’s decision whether a citation is issued.

Take Advantage of Educational Resources

As the parent of a teen driver in California, you have access to a parent-teen training guide through the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles. This guide will help you talk to your teens about driver safety and responsibility. Included with the guide is a contract that defines a driver’s responsibilities, including who will pay for damage to the vehicle, who handles maintenance and puts gas in the car, who is responsible to pay tickets, and so on. Both teens and parents have duties and make pledges to complete the contract.

As a parent, you already have plenty of concerns about the new responsibilities and opportunities available to your teen. Make sure your teen abides by all provisional regulations and work as a family to improve safe driving habits for everyone.

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