What are California’s laws for teenage drivers?

California helped lead the way to creating a phased approach to full driving privileges for teenagers in the United States in an effort to reduce accidents.

Long gone are the days in which a 16-year-old in California can get a driver's license and immediately load a vehicle up with friends and go out for the evening. Over the past 20 years, the National Institute of Health explains that states began enacting what are referred to as Graduated Drivers' License programs. California was among the first states to adopt this approach to licensing new teen drivers.

The reason behind GDL programs is clear-the lack of experience and maturity of teens make them more dangerous behind the wheel. Placing driving restrictions on them as they grow in both experience and maturity can reduce accidents and give them more time to become safer drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that vehicle crashes with teenage drivers have been cut in half thanks to these programs. Fatalities in such accidents are down roughly 14 percent.

What is a GDL Program?

A Graduated Drivers' License program is a step-by-step approach to receiving full driving privileges. Teens are giving select privileges at each phase until they are eventually allowed to drive with no restrictions. As explained by the Governors Highway Safety Association, most programs involve three steps to full licensing.

What is the first step in California's GDL program?

A learner's permit is the first step for a new teen driver in California. The Department of Motor Vehicles can issue a permit to a teen who is at least 15 and one half years old once the teen has taken a drivers' education class with a minimum of 30 classroom instructional hours.

While permitted, the teen driver must be accompanied by a licensed adult driver who is at least 25 years old. Upon reaching 16 years of age, six hours of driving instruction from a professional must be completed. In addition, the teen must log at least 50 hours of supervised driving with a parent or other adult. Ten of those supervised hours should be after dark.

What are the next steps in California's GDL program?

After fulfilling the requirements of the permit phase, a teen can apply for a driver's license. In the second step of the program, the newly licensed driver cannot have any passenger under 21 years old in a vehicle while driving. The one exception to this is when another passenger 25 or older is in the vehicle. With some exceptions, drivers in this stage are not allowed to drive between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.

After a full year, these restrictions are lifted and the teen may drive freely.

What should be done when a teen driver is involved in a crash?

Accidents can still happen even with a structured Graduated Drivers' License program in place. Victims are urged to contact an attorney for help. Parents of teenage drivers do have to sign a waiver indicating their agreement to be financially responsible for their children while driving.