During the 1990s, states began enacting graduated driver’s license laws that put certain restrictions on new drivers under the age of 18. Today, almost every state has these laws to keep all motorists safe. As a Virginia teen or the parent of a teen, it is important to understand these laws and the consequences for breaking them.
Virginia Graduated License Laws
Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for people age 15-20. While it is impossible to remove all crash risks, it is important to recognize that distracted driving, drowsy driving, and drunk driving can all result in serious crashes.
To reduce accidents, the Commonwealth of Virginia has enacted certain laws to protect new drivers and all motorists on the road. Those laws require that minor drivers:
- Get a driver’s permit before driving on public roads. In order to get a driver’s permit, you must be at least 15 ½ years old, you must pass a vision test, you must pass a knowledge test, and you must pay all applicable fees. Once a driver’s permit is granted, you may drive on a public road if an adult licensed driver is in the front seat next to you. In most cases, the other driver must be at least 21 years old, but some family members who are at least 18 years old may legally accompany you. If you are under the age of 19, you must hold a driver’s permit for at least nine months before you can get a license.
- Complete a state-approved driver’s education program before getting a license if they are under the age of 19 when they apply for a driver’s license. These programs are typically available through the public schools and in private settings. They must consist of 36 classroom hours and 14 in-car sessions including 7 hours behind the wheel and 7 hours of observation.
- Attend a court licensing ceremony after having held a learning permit for nine months and finishing a driver’s education program. A parent or guardian must be with you at this court licensing ceremony.
- Abide by the curfew if they have a learner’s permit or a driver’s license and they are under the age of 18. The curfew prohibits you from driving between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m. If you are a licensed driver, the curfew does not apply in emergencies, if you are traveling to or from a school event, or if there is a parent (or another adult acting as a parent) in the car.
- Abide by the passenger restrictions if they are under the age of 18. Drivers under the age of 18 who are driving without a parent in the front seat may have just one passenger under 18 at a time for the first year they hold a license. After holding a license for one year, they may have up to three passengers under the age of 18 at a time if going to or from a school event, if there is a parent in the car next to them, or if there is an emergency. These restrictions end when they turn 18. Family members are not included in the passenger restrictions.
These laws are meant to keep people safe and not to penalize young drivers. However, any violation of the curfew or passenger restrictions could result in a suspension of a teen driver’s license.
How to Know If a Teen Driver Caused Your Accident
Graduated license laws can help prevent accidents, but teen drivers lack the experience of older drivers, and some serious and fatal accidents occur regardless of driving laws. Some accidents are the fault of teen drivers; some are not. Just as with any other kind of accident, a full investigation must be done to determine who is at fault. Our experienced car accident lawyers can help with that investigation and protect your rights after a crash with any driver. That way, you can get the recovery you deserve from the driver who was legally responsible for your accident injuries.