Talking with my dad not long ago, he recounted the helplessness and anxiety he felt watching me head down the driveway in my car on my 16th birthday, realizing his life had forever changed. Looking back, I can't believe I was allowed to drive at that age. Sixteen-year-old me doesn't seem that smart, careful, or responsible in hindsight. My own parental clock is ticking in that same regard, as my eldest child will be permit-eligible in less than a year and a half, and honestly, the thought is harrowing. Can time just slow down, please?
"Back in My Day of Driving" There Weren't As Many Rules
When I was starting to drive there were no restrictions on who the child driver could have in the car with them. Often passenger capacity was taxed by how many kids tried to cram into one vehicle on a Friday night. To 40-year old me, this seems like a disaster waiting to happen.
It's not as if teen drivers don't have enough to possibly distract them from the task at hand with their devices. Adding raucous, immature passengers to the mix is asking for trouble. And yes, I do hear how “get off my lawn” this is sounding. This is coming from a worried father as well as an experienced attorney who has seen plenty of teen driving accidents.
Increased Driving Rules to Help With Road Safety
Thankfully, in these times we do have some legal restrictions aimed at extending the less-distracted period of learning/growing behind the wheel. Chief among these is RCW 46.20.075, the statute creating the intermediate license.
RCW 46.20.075 requires that during the first six months of licensure (or until age 18, whichever is shorter), the driver cannot carry passengers under the age of 20 who are not immediate household members. For the remaining period of the intermediate license (ending 12 months after issuance), drivers are limited to three non-household under-20 passengers. Late-night driving is also prohibited, as is electronic device use (even hands-free).
Benefits of Additional Driving Rules for Teen Drivers
The benefits of this statutory scheme are many. Primarily, it increases safety for all on the roadways. Examples of how the statue helps improve safety;
- Less noise in the vehicle.
- Higher chance of passengers wearing seatbelts: If there is no rule then kids were jumping into the car regardless of the number of available seats.
- Few electronic devices
- Decreased chance of getting lost taking passengers home to their various locations.
- Fewer friends in the vehicle = less peer pressure: Peer pressure leads to a higher chance of speeding and other illegal reckless behavior.
Secondarily, and a distant second to be sure, it helps me not have to be the bad guy the first time my oldest asks me if she can pick up a couple of friends. The state has me covered on this one.