6 Laws You Didn’t Know About for Your Underage Drivers in Texas
I am the parent of a teen who will be getting his driver’s license in the next few days. I must say that this is an exciting time at our house! As the parent or guardian of a teen who is fast approaching legal driving age, you want to be sure of all the steps necessary to make his or her rite of passage as safe and smooth as humanly possible. At Greening Law, we want to help you navigate all the legal requirements as well.
If your Texas teen is ready to begin driving, you’re probably already aware of at least some of the requirements that must be met to obtain a Texas driver license. For underage drivers, there are some restrictions to consider as well as a few extra hurdles to clear on their way to independent motoring.
Graduated Driver License (GDL) Program
In January of 2002, the state of Texas implemented a program through which new drivers under the age of 18 could gain experience and awareness behind the wheel in stages, and in a safe environment. The program was named Graduated Driver License, and consists of two phases: The Learner’s License, and the Provisional License.
For the sake of public safety and consistent with the GDL program’s aim to develop young drivers into seasoned drivers as safely as possible, there are some restrictions and laws that you and your underage driver need to know. Here are six laws you may not be aware of for your underage Texas driver.
- The minimum 6-month requirement for an underage driver to hold a Learner’s License is applicable even for drivers moving from out of state who already possess a learner’s permit from another state. This does not apply for a motorcycle or moped license, for which there are no minimum time requirements.
- Health awareness also plays an integral role in safety and traffic laws in Texas. To that end, the Texas Department of Public Safety makes it mandatory that any driver under the age of 18 who is convicted of buying, receiving, possession or consuming tobacco products attend a TDSHS-approved (Texas Department of State Health Services) tobacco awareness program. The program must be completed within 90 days of the conviction to avoid suspension of the driver license.
- Automotive safety is seriously threatened by drunk or impaired driving. Alcohol awareness is therefore a crucial part of earning driving privileges in the state of Texas. In addition to existing laws regarding alcohol consumption that apply to all Texas motorists, the laws allow for a Zero Tolerance policy toward drivers under the age of 21 convicted of alcohol-related offenses.For underage drivers, that means there is no minimal alcohol content required to constitute a criminal offense. Any detectable amount of alcohol is all it takes to cost you and your teen. A first offense open container conviction, for instance, can result in a fine up to $2,000 and as long as 180 days in jail. Additionally, it can mean suspension of your underage driver’s license for up to a full year. Note also that Zero Tolerance means no under-21 drivers may purchase, possess, or consume alcoholic beverages.
- Our young people are developing their driving skills in a challenging environment. Smart phones and other hand-held devices offer so many distractions that put drivers at risk. The Department of Public Safety began a program in Sept. 2015 to educate young drivers about the hazards of distracted driving, called the Impact Texas Teen Drivers Program (ITTD). Completion of this program is mandatory, pursuant to Texas Administrative Code, Sec. 15.62.
- Under exceptional circumstances, an underage driver may apply for a MRDL or Minor Restricted Driver License, or Hardship License. This license is issued to drivers whose circumstances are such that failure to issue a license to the driver would create an unusual economic hardship for the family. The minimum age for an MRDL is 15. Applicants must have completed all requirements for a regular license, as well as driver education. Applications are available online from the Texas Department of Public Safety.
- Once your teenager has received his provisional license, his friends may want him to become a chauffeur for the whole group. You may think that is a bad idea; the state of Texas agrees with you. Provisional license holders can only have one passenger in their vehicle that is under 21, unless those underage passengers are also family members.
Despite your best efforts and adherence to the laws, unfortunately, accidents do happen on occasion. When they do, it’s important to be sure that your family is protected by the same laws, through experienced representation. If you or your teen driver is involved in an automotive collision, know where to go in the Dallas area for authoritative counsel you can count on.
You can download a free copy of the e-book, Auto Accident Handbook, by Robert Greening here, to have important tips at your fingertips in the event you are involved in an auto accident. Know what to do and what not to do, and who to call in the event of a collision.
For expert consultation and representation if and when you need, be sure to contact a Personal Injury Attorney who knows the law and cares about you. Contact Robert Greening in Dallas, TX for the justice you and your family deserve.