Safe Teen Driver Series: Part 2 – The facts on Northwest graduated licensing laws

​Last week, we kicked of the Safe Teen Driver blog series with Part 1 – Finding a driver's ed program that works. This week, we dive into the topic of graduated licensing.

northwest-roadsFor most of us, the transition from passenger to driver went like this: Turn 16, pass your driver’s test, and freedom, baby! Friday nights meant cruising town (even if it was a one-stoplight stretch of pavement just a few blocks long) with a carload of friends, radio blaring.

But not for your kids.

What we and lawmakers didn’t realize back then was that new drivers just aren’t ready for the distraction of teen passengers and late nights behind the wheel. Since the early 2000s, nearly all states have imposed graduated-licensing restrictions on young teen drivers, with impressive results. The number of 15- to 20-year-olds involved in fatal crashes has dropped 48% nationwide. And 16-year-olds receive three times fewer tickets under graduated licensing than drivers who wait until 18 (with no restrictions) to begin driving.

What does ‘graduated licensing’ mean?
Graduated licensing progressively increases freedom for drivers under 18 as they continue to develop the attention, judgment, perception, and decision-making skills needed to drive safely. The process starts with a learner’s permit that allows teens as young as 15 to enroll in driver’s education and begin gaining practice on the road.

When they pass state tests, teens can earn an “intermediate” or “provisional” driver’s license at age 16. It restricts teen passengers, night driving, and wireless device use. When teens turn 18, the last of the restrictions (wireless use) is removed, giving them full driving privileges.

Click to see a summary of graduated licensing steps for Washington and Oregon.

driving-lessons-teen.jpgA PEMCO Poll showed almost 80% of parents consider the state requirements merely a starting point and enforce their own graduated driving “house rules.” That can include an activity-based curfew, determined by what your teen is doing. Going to a movie that ends at 9:30 p.m.? Be home by 10 p.m. A dance that ends at 10 p.m.? Be home by 11 p.m. Common sense restrictions like that seem fair to teens and eliminate aimless driving. See A parent-teen driving agreement you both can live with for more ideas.

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