May 25, 2004
RESTRICTED DRIVING LAW FOR 16- AND 17-YEAR OLDS
By: James J. Fazzalaro, Principal Analyst
You asked if any statistics are available yet to indicate the number of citations issued for violations of the new law establishing passenger restrictions for 16- and 17-year old drivers during their first six months of licensure. You also wanted to know how a police officer can identify if someone he observes riding with a teen driver under these restrictions is a member of the driver's immediate family. Finally, you wanted to know how the accident rate for drivers from age 16 to 18 compares with drivers age 18 to 21 and age 65 and older.
PA 03-171, as amended by PA 03-265, established certain restrictions on newly licensed 16- and 17-year old drivers, primarily during their first six months of licensure. Specifically, during the first three months following licensure, these drivers may carry only one passenger who must be either his parent or guardian who is at least age 25 and a licensed driver; a licensed driving instructor; or any person who is at least age 20, has been licensed for at least four years, and who has not had his license suspended during the last four years he has been licensed. The law also prohibits any driver under age 18 from transporting more passengers than there are available seat belts in the vehicle.
The passenger restrictions became effective on January 1, 2004. The Judicial Department database does not yet contain any statistics reflecting these provisions because of the lag time involved in compiling them. Statistics for the period from October through December 2003 show four cases, two of which were nolled and two of which resulted in payment of a fine to the Centralized Infractions Bureau. However, these four cases probably involved violations of the learner's permit provisions of the new legislation, which became effective on October 1, 2003, rather than the restricted driving provisions, which were not effective until January 1, 2004.
If a police officer were to stop a 16- or 17-year old driver and wanted to find out if a passenger could legally be in the vehicle under the passenger restrictions, he probably would simply ask the passenger who he was and, if possible, ask for identification. If the officer did not believe that the person was an immediate family member or was another person who was at least age 20 and licensed for four years, he probably would issue a citation and the driver would subsequently have to show to the prosecutor's satisfaction that the passenger was a proper person to be riding with him.
We have included a copy of OLR Report 2002-R-0021 that provides information on several elderly driver issues. The report provides detailed comparisons of accidents and accident rates for drivers in all age groups, including the ones in which you are interested.