Getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage, but young drivers are far more likely to be in an accident than adults. The younger the driver, the worse the problem: the CDC reports that the accident rate for 16-year-old drivers is 1.5 times that of drivers age 18 to 19.
In an effort to protect vulnerable teen drivers, Texas has enacted several laws that apply specifically to drivers under 18. Knowing the rules — and abiding by them — will help keep your teen safe and avoid penalties for breaking these important laws.
Texas Graduated License Laws
Minors are allowed to get a learner’s permit and take driver’s ed in Texas, but they are subject to some restrictions on their driver’s licenses while under the age of 18. Their license is a provisional license, which means that:
It is illegal to drive between midnight and 5 a.m., unless you have to drive to get to work, school and school-related activities, or to get help in a medical emergency.
It is illegal to drive with more than one passenger under the age of 21 unless those passengers are family members.
Violations of Texas provisional license laws can incur fines of up to $200.
Texas Distracted Driving Laws
Texting while driving is incredibly dangerous, which is why Texas has enacted distracted driving laws to cut down on the use of devices behind the wheel. While these laws don’t ban cell phones for adult drivers entirely, the rules are different for teens. It is illegal for drivers under the age of 18 to use a cell phone or other handheld device for any purpose while driving.
Violations can incur fines of up to $200 in ordinary cases. However, accidents resulting in the injury or death of another person can incur additional fines of up to $4,000 and possible jail time.
Texas DWI Laws
The legal drinking age in Texas is 21, and the state has a zero-tolerance stance on teens driving while intoxicated. While adults in Texas must keep their blood alcohol content (BAC) below .08%, there is no acceptable BAC for minors under the age of 21:
It is illegal for minors to have any detectable blood alcohol content while driving.
A police officer can pull over a minor and request a blood test for any reasonable suspicion of alcohol use.
Refusal to consent to a breath or blood test results in a 180-day driver’s license suspension.
Violations carry stiff penalties, even for a first offense. For drivers under age 17, these include a fine of up to $500, community service of up to 40 hours, and a license suspension of up to 180 days. For drivers age 17 to 20, a first offense carries a fine of up to $2,000, jail time of up to 180 days, and a one-year license suspension.
What to Do if You Get a Ticket in Texas
Everyone makes mistakes, and teen drivers are certainly no exception. In some cases, Texas state law allows a judge to dismiss a ticket, provided that the offender takes a defensive driving course to brush up on their knowledge of safe driving practices. Not all offenses are eligible for ticket dismissal, so you’ll need to check with the court names on your citation to ask for this option.
It takes several years of practice to truly master driving. Texas state law limits teens’ freedoms on the road in an effort to prevent accidents. The law also provides for severe penalties in the case of DWI to discourage teens from drinking and driving. These laws are meant to protect both teens and the people they pass on the roads every day.