Teen Passenger Limits On New Drivers

Under California law, newly minted drivers under the age of 18 must adhere to certain limitations for a year after they receive their driver’s license. One of the big restrictions is the age of the passengers they are allowed to have in the car—they cannot be under 20 unless a parent, licensed driver over the age of 25, or driving instructor is also in the vehicle. But does this restriction provide enough protection against distraction or encouragement to behave poorly behind the wheel?

In this post, we will take a look at the intentions of this legal limit and whether it is enough of a restriction to keep young drivers and others safe.

The Logic Behind Teen Driving Restrictions

It is important for young people to secure a driver’s license. It enables them to get to school and extracurricular activities without depending on a parent or other licensed adult’s availability. For many teens, the ability to drive enables them to hold down full or part-time jobs and enjoy active social lives. In simpler terms, driving equals freedom.

However, teenagers under the age of 18 are not known for making sound decisions. The tendency to become careless or get distracted intensifies when in groups. When this occurs while driving a multi-ton vehicle capable of achieving high rates of speed, the risks become clear.

This is why California puts restrictions on teenage drivers. These include observing curfews and other limitations during the first 12 months of having a license, such as only allowing an under-18-year-old to drive under 20-year-old passengers if a grownup (defined by law as someone over the age of 25 with a driver’s license) is with them.

The reasoning makes sense: if a group of teens piles into a car with a licensed, but still novice driver at the helm, it increases the likelihood of misbehavior. A vehicle filled with teens loudly talking, laughing, and blasting music would distract any driver. Given that a new driver is still getting used to focusing solely on the road and is likelier to make errors, these distractions increase the danger to everyone. If the other teens in the car are partying—passing around alcohol and weed or other drugs—their friend who is driving will be tempted to join in, especially if the others apply peer pressure to do so. Plus, a crowded car means there probably aren’t enough seatbelts to go around and all the teens will be less inclined to wear them if their friends are not.

Having a more responsible adult in the car should be a deterrent against these reckless behaviors. But let’s be honest—if you have a car filled with young people, simply having one be a more experienced driver of 25 might not be enough to ensure responsible behavior. Sure, if it is a parent or a driving teacher, shenanigans will be minimal. But what if the licensed driver is someone’s big brother, who isn’t particularly known for his maturity? Or a buddy who happens to be a bit older? Then you are still left with a car full of kids and one ostensible full adult posing too much of a distraction for the young driver, perhaps still encouraging, or at least overlooking, poor behavior behind the wheel.

What would we suggest? A reasonable limit to the number of young people allowed to drive with the new under 18-year-old driver would be a good start, certainly during the first year. Keeping the number to no more than four in the car, including the driver and the approved adult over 25, would diffuse the potential for a party atmosphere developing. It would also reduce distractions in general for the driver and ensure that everyone inside has a seatbelt available for additional safety.

Time to Call an Automobile Accident Lawyer

Regardless of whether you were a passenger in a vehicle driven by a teenager whose carelessness led to an accident or were in a car struck by an out-of-control teen driver, you deserve compensation for any resulting injuries and losses. Contact Scott J. Corwin, A Professional Law Corporation, and find out how we can help you through this difficult time.

Contact our office today by calling (310) 683-2300 or filling out the online contact form to discuss the details of your case and learn more about how we can help you. We offer free consultations, so there’s no reason not to reach out to someone from our team right away.