What are the rules surrounding new teenage drivers using their intermediate licenses?
Intermediate licensing of drivers aged 16-18 in Washington comes with several important restrictions.
Mainly, the limitations involve driving late at night and driving with other minors in the vehicle.
The limitation on driving with other minors is actually a very important one. As discussed at length in the attached article from Edutopia, brain development in teenagers demonstrates that they are much more likely to engage in risky behavior when they are with their peers than when alone. This behavior has little to do with education and upbringing, and is basically a side-effect of teenage brain development. Accordingly, Washington law tracks these risk-enhanced circumstances and places limitations on the circumstances in order to keep teen drivers and the rest of us more safe.
The relevant section of the RCW reads as follows:
(2) For the first six months after the issuance of an intermediate license or until the holder reaches eighteen years of age, whichever occurs first, the holder of the license may not operate a motor vehicle that is carrying any passengers under the age of twenty who are not members of the holder’s immediate family as defined in RCW42.17A.005. For the remaining period of the intermediate license, the holder may not operate a motor vehicle that is carrying more than three passengers who are under the age of twenty who are not members of the holder’s immediate family.
(3) The holder of an intermediate license may not operate a motor vehicle between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. except when the holder is accompanied by a parent, guardian, or a licensed driver who is at least twenty-five years of age.
(4) The holder of an intermediate license may not operate a moving motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device unless the holder is using the device to report illegal activity, summon medical or other emergency help, or prevent injury to a person or property.
(5) It is a traffic infraction for the holder of an intermediate license to operate a motor vehicle in violation of the restrictions imposed under this section.
(6) Except for a violation of subsection (4) of this section, enforcement of this section by law enforcement officers may be accomplished only as a secondary action when a driver of a motor vehicle has been detained for a suspected violation of this title or an equivalent local ordinance or some other offense.
(7) An intermediate licensee may drive at any hour without restrictions on the number of passengers in the vehicle if necessary for agricultural purposes.
(8) An intermediate licensee may drive at any hour without restrictions on the number of passengers in the vehicle if, for the twelve-month period following the issuance of the intermediate license, he or she:
(a) Has not been involved in an accident involving only one motor vehicle;
(b) Has not been involved in an accident where he or she was cited in connection with the accident or was found to have caused the accident;
(c) Has not been involved in an accident where no one was cited or was found to have caused the accident; and
(d) Has not been convicted of or found to have committed a traffic offense described in chapter 46.61 RCW or violated restrictions placed on an intermediate licensee under this section.
If you are interested in the science behind limiting the passengers in a teenager’s vehicle, please check out the Edutopia article here.