What all teens AND their parents need to know about the states graduated driving laws
Alabama State Troopers want to remind parents about teen driving laws. Alabama’s Graduated Driver’s License law went into effect in 2010, but accidents prove drivers are overlooking the restrictions and lives are being lost.
The state’s Graduated Driver License law puts limits on when and how 16- and 17-year-old drivers can get behind the wheel.
Under the law:
A 16- to 17-year-old Alabama driver with a graduated license may NOT:
- Have more than ONE non-family passenger other than the parent, guardian or supervising licensed driver at least 21 years of age.
- Operate a vehicle between 12:00 midnight and 6:00 am, unless:
- accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
- accompanied by a licensee 21 years of age or older with parental consent.
- going to or from their place of work.
- going to or from a school-sponsored event.
- going to or from a religious-sponsored event.
- driving due to a medical, fire, or law enforcement emergency.
- driving to or from hunting/fishing activities in possession of required licenses.
- Drive while operating any non-essential handheld communication device.
Violations will result in an extension of the graduated license period and/or suspension of the license.
“When they give that child the keys to a vehicle, they are giving them a tool,” ALEA Cpl. Jess Thornton said of parents. “But they may be giving them a weapon as well.”
Authorities are pleading with parents to help them enforce this law. Under the GDL, 16-year-olds can only have one non-family member in the car, can’t drive between midnight and 6a.m., unless certain circumstances apply, and cannot have access to a handheld device or cell phone.
“They cannot have a phone in their possession while they are driving,” Thornton said. “There’s no talking, no texting — anything that takes their focus away from driving.”
If a 16-year-old is in violation, they will get six additional months under Stage 2 and an additional ticket could suspend the license for 60 days. Chilton and Autauga County District Attorney Randall Houston says that’s not enough. “I don’t even think it constitutes a slap on the wrist,” Houston said. “Teenagers want that freedom, but if they stand the chance of losing that freedom, because they are in violation of these laws, maybe they will stop.”
Houston helped draft the Deputy Hart Act, which would increase the penalty for violating the GDL and even penalize parents for not enforcing it. It’s named after a deputy killed by a teenage driver in violation.
“We are trying to combat 16-year-olds who think they are invincible, and parents who are not aware,” Houston said. “These laws are on the book for a good reason, we need parents to help us enforce these rules.”
Thornton reminds parents the law is not intended to push penalties or fines, but keep the most vulnerable, accident-prone drivers safe.
“Driving is not a right, it’s a privilege,” Thornton said. “Ultimately parents can be held responsible for the decisions that they make by letting those teenagers lose and letting them do whatever they want to behind the wheel of a vehicle.”
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