Over the last 20 years, every state has instituted its own version of Graduated Drivers’ License programs for teenagers. The National Institute of Health explains that California was one of the first states to do this, leading the way in an effort designed to reduce motor vehicle accidents. Teenage drivers naturally are less mature than their adult counterparts and lack sufficient driving experience with which to make important, fast and often life-altering decisions.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, GDL programs have been linked to a reduction in the number of crashes involving teen drivers. Fatalities in these crashes have also been cut thanks to Graduated Driver’s License programs.
The Governors Highway Safety Association explains that GDL programs essentially set up multiple steps through which teen drivers must pass. At each point along the way, teens are given slightly more privileges and fewer restrictions. Eventually they can receive unrestricted drivers’ licenses.
Teens wishing to drive must first obtain a learner’s permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles . They can do this after they have completed an approved drivers’ education course and reaching the age of 15 years and six months. The course should include at least 30 hours of classroom instruction.
While holding learner’s permits, teens can only drive while supervised. The supervisor must be over 24 years old and have a valid driver’s license. A minimum of six driving hours of instruction must be completed along with a minimum of 50 hours of supervised driving outside of the official training. One-fifth of the minimum supervised hours should be driven after dark.
Once all of the above requirements have been met and teens are at least 16 years old, they can apply for drivers’ licenses. When initially licensed, teens are limited as to who can be their passengers. No person 20 years old or younger can be in a vehicle driven by a teen unless a supervisor 25 or older is also in the vehicle. Driving is also restricted between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.
Assuming there are no citations or accidents caused by a teen driver for a full year, the teen can be free of all restrictions.
While California’s Graduated Drivers’ License program may prevent some accidents, it is unlikely to prevent all accidents. Anyone injured in a crash caused by a young driver should seek help from an attorney promptly.