Teen Driving Laws in Texas: A Breakdown

If you’re a teen in Texas, when it comes to getting your driver’s license, you may hear a variety of terms such as “provisional,” “learner license,” and “adult license.” These terms are stages in the process of becoming an adult driver, and there are certain teen driving laws in Texas you need to follow during this process. Here’s a look at some of the Texas teen driving laws in place.

A Graduated Program

Teen drivers in Texas are part of a Graduated Driver License (GDL) program. These laws protect teens and are the result of national teen driving law changes that began to take place in the 1990s.

“The Graduated Driver License (GDL) program was implemented in 2002 in order to give new drivers, who do not have the benefit of experience on the road, a chance to improve their driving skills over time in a lower-risk environment,” said a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Doug Horn, a Kansas City-based crash lawyer and safety advocate, says GDL laws promote parent engagement, which he says “is the very best way that we can help reduce the types of teen driver collisions that result in serious injury and wrongful death. These laws make sense because they prohibit the driving activities that pose the most risk to the teen driver.”

Rules for the Learner License

Under the graduated program, when a teen turns 15 and has taken six hours of online or classroom education, they can apply for a learner license. With it, they:

  • Are allowed to drive with a licensed adult 21 or older who is a driving school instructor or the designated parent in the parent taught program.

  • Can only drive if the adult is supervising and sitting in the front seat.

  • Must practice driving for at least 30 hours, with at least 10 hours at night.

You need to wait six months to apply for your provisional license. If your license gets suspended during that time, you'll need to add those days to the six-month period before applying for a provisional license. The learner license is not valid during the suspension.

Rules for the Provisional License

After six months with a learner license, and once a teen has reached 16 years of age, they must complete the classroom or online driver education required by the state, as well as the behind-the-wheel portion (30 hours of supervised training). They can then apply for a provisional license after they’ve viewed the Impact Texas Drivers (ITD) video and passed the written and road tests. Under a provisional license, there are certain driving restrictions. They include:

  • Only one passenger under the age of 21 is allowed in the car unless other passengers are family members. This restriction is lifted if the teen driver is accompanied by a licensed adult over the age of 21 with at least one year of driving experience.

  • A driving curfew in Texas where teens are not permitted to drive between midnight and 5 a.m. unless for work, school or an emergency.

  • Fines for violating the above provisions. The first violation can range from $25 to $99, the second violation $100 to $200.

Once a teen reaches 18 years of age, they can then apply for an adult driver's license.

Tough on Distracted Driving, Tobacco, and Alcohol

There are a few other state driving laws teens should be aware of. For instance, teens, along with other drivers, are prohibited from reading, writing, or sending an electronic message while operating a vehicle, per the state’s distracted driving laws. If a teen texts and causes an accident that kills or injures someone, they can get a class A misdemeanor and a $4,000 fine.

In addition, any teen driver under the age of 18 convicted of buying, receiving, or consuming tobacco products must attend a state-approved tobacco awareness class. It must be completed within 90 days, or otherwise, their license will be suspended.

In addition, the state has a zero-tolerance policy with regard to alcohol. If the teen drinks or has an open alcohol container in their car, they may see a fine as high as $2,000 and could go to jail for up to 180 days. In addition, they can have their license suspended for up to a year.

Conclusion

These Texas teen driving laws exist to keep teens and other drivers on the road safe. By learning the rules of the road from a reputable online education program, practicing under the supervision of an instructor and/or experienced driver, and making good choices, a teen can move through the graduated program and eventually become a confident adult driver.

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