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The time has come: your teenage kid is driving. You hand them the keys and wonder where the time had gone; but before handing out those keys, you must have had your child fulfill all the state’s requirements, perused the laws that surround teenage driving, and lay down ground rules with regards to owning and driving a motor vehicle.

Over the past couple of decades, states have been adopting a phased approach to licensing teenage drivers, called Graduated Drivers’ License (GDL) program. California is among the first states to do this.  The three-stage program was the response to the fact that teen drivers do not have the same level of responsibility as their adult counterparts. Their immaturity, lack of skills, and lack of experience are the reason why they have a higher rate of fatal crashes.

California’s GDL law is a two-step program, which starts when the teen driver is 15 ½ years old.

Instructional Permit

In the first phase, the new teen driver is given an instructional permit, and with it, the driver may operate any vehicle, other than a motorcycle, provided that he or she is accompanied by a licensed driver over the age of 25. Before applying for the provisional permit, the driver must have the instructional permit for six months. The driver must have also completed a course in in any secondary school in California on automobile driver education and driver training, or a driver education and training program approved by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), with a minimum of 30 hours of classroom instruction. The driver must maintain a clean driving record – no distracted driving, and driving under the influence.

Once the driver has completed the requirements, he or she can go to the next step: receiving a provisional license.

Provisional License

The student may receive the provisional license if he or she is between 16 to 18 years old and has passed the behind-the-wheel test; and he or she has to abide by the following regulations:

  • For the first 12 months, no passengers under the age of 20 is allowed inside the vehicle unless a licensed driver aged 25 and older is present.
  • He or she must also be accompanied by a licensed driver aged 25 and older if driving between 11:00 PM and 5:00 AM.

The may get his or her full privilege drivers license upon successful completion of the first two steps for the proper amount of time; and there are no outstanding DMV or any court-ordered restrictions, probations, or violations on record.

What can you do as a parent?

  • Discuss with your teen the dangers of drug and alcohol use and remind them that it is illegal to drink under the age of 21 and illegal, not to mention deadly, to drink and drive. Inform that when you are under 21, their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) must always be .00, not just under .08, which is the legal limit for adults.
  • Be a good role model. Learning starts at home, so make sure you allot time for practice driving sessions to improve his or her basic driving skills.
  • Do your homework. Know your state’s GDL laws, as well as the restrictions.

Contact us at Hogan Injury for expert legal advice.

None of the content on is legal advice nor is it a replacement for advice from a certified lawyer. Please consult a legal professional for further information.

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