Drivers Licenses & Teens

Recent Changes to Minor Driving Laws

Things you used to do…  Now it's...

  • Get a ride to school with your friend… Illegal
  • Answer a phone call while driving… Illegal
  • Drive your date to the movies… Illegal
  • Check a text message while driving… Illegal
  • Be a designated driver... Illegal
  • Get a ticket without your license cosignor knowing… Your driver's license cosignor, parent, or guardian gets a copy of your ticket.
  • Receive probation for getting arrested for drunk driving… Mandatory loss of license for 1 or more years.

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration has a large collection of guides and frequently asked questions available on it's website.  Specifically you may be most interested in their guide to new teen driving laws, learner's permits, and provisional licenses.  Maryland has now joined over forty other states in enacting some type of graduated driving license. You may also want to take a look at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s  “Graduated Driver Licensing: Questions and Answers”

Learner's Permit

Before age 18 you can, with parent’s or guardian’s permission, you can obtain a learner’s permit or provisional license. In addition, Maryland has a graduated driver licensing program. This means that if you are under age 18, you must go through several phases with varying restrictions before the same driving license as an adult.

For more on the provisional license and the learner’s permit program – see the official source the MD Motor Vehicle Administration to read about why programs like this were created, see a national study by Johns Hopkins University of the impact of such a program. Also look at a national evaluation of these programs at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website.

Minor Driver Restrictions

Effective 10/1/09- The clerk of the court must report to MVA a child adjudicated delinquent or found to have committed a delinquent act (without an adjudication) for the offenses of (1) failing to remain at the scene of an accident involving bodily injury, death, or property damage; and (2) fleeing and eluding a police officer. On notification, MVA must suspend the license of the child for six months for a first adjudication or finding that the child committed the offenses and for one year for a second or subsequent adjudication or finding. See HB 1167/SB 219. 

Effective 10/1/09-  The Motor Vehicle Administration is prohibited from issuing a provisional license to anyone younger than 16 years, 6 months, or within 9 months of being convicted or granted probation before judgment for a moving violation; or a driver’s license to anyone younger than 18, or within 18 months of either the granting of probation before judgment for a moving violation or the imposition of a provisional driver’s license restriction, or from the date of restoration of a provisional license that has been cancelled. For an individual younger than 18 with a provisional license who commits a moving violation, the MVA may suspend the driver's license, impose an education and employment only restriction, and require the driver to attend a young driver improvement program. The bill permits the MVA to impose greater punishment with repeat offenses. See HB 303/SB 265. 

(House Bill 511) Entitled: Vehicle Law – Moving Violations by Minors – Notification of Parent or Guardian, requires the MVA to notify the cosigner of a minor’s driver’s license application about every citation issued to the minor for a moving violation, instead of just a speeding violation of at least 20 MPH over the maximum speed.  The notification must include identifying information and information about the violation as specified in the bill.

(House Bill 393) The Maryland General Assembly passed, and the Governor signed, a law restricting who minors can have with them in automobiles. The Law states that if you are under the age of 18, you may not drive a car with passengers under the age of 18.  This only applies to those with provisional licenses and only for the first 5 months of that license (151 days).

There are limited exceptions to this:

  • Minors can be present if there is an adult in the car, who is at least 21.  The adult must have a driver’s license for at least 3 years and be sitting by the driver.
  • Under 18 passengers who are related to you the driver (spouse, sibling or other family members who live in the same house) can ride in the car with you.
  • If you are pulled over for another offense, the police can cite you for this offense. You may have your driver’s license suspended or revoked.

If you are cited under this law, it is a “moving violation”.

Can I drive my little brother to…? Yes, immediate family members and other family members living at the same address can all drive together. It is the only exception where you can be in a car with those under the age of 18 without someone 21 years or older.

Can I drive my date to the movies… prom… homecoming…? If you and your date are both under 18 years old, you may not drive without the accompaniment of someone 21 years or older.

Can the police pull me over just for seeing several teens in my car? Technically no. The police can only enforce this law as a secondary action. According to the law, the police can only cite you for this if you have already been pulled over for a “suspected violation” of another law. That being said, if you are pulled over, the police are likely going to cite you.

My 14 year old cousin came to visit. Can we drive together? No. The family member exception only applies to family members who have the same address as the driver.

I was at a party and I wasn't drinking.  Can I drive my friends who were drinking home?  While being responsible and not letting your friends drive seems like the lesser of two evils, if you are pulled over and you meet the above conditions, you will be cited for the minor passenger restriction.

I'm not 18 yet, but I just received my full drivers license, does this still apply to me?  No, the new laws only affect those on provisional licenses, not those who have moved on to unrestricted drivers licenses.

How can my friends and I drive any place together? The only way for people under the age of 18 to drive together in a car is if someone over 21 is driving or is sitting next to the driver.

What if I want to drive with someone over 18, but is not 21 or older? Someone under the age of 18 can drive with someone 19 years or older. However, the presence of the 19 or 20 year old does not mean the s/he is an adult for the purposes of this law. This means, that although you can drive with a 20 year old, you can’t drive with the 20 year old and someone else under the age of 18.

What if I'm a baby sitter and a nanny?  What if driving my client's children is part of my job?  There is no baby sitter excepting.  All of the above rules apply.

Drunk or Drugged Driving

Twice a year, Anne Arundel County District Court Judge Vincent A. Mulieri opens his courtroom to area students as part of a three-hour program designed to educate students about the legal system while warning them about the consequences of  drinking and driving, drug use, and other crimes. After watching live, unscripted cases, the students have the opportunity to discuss such issues with community leaders, judges and actual drunk driving offenders about making proper decisions in life
Both Senate Bill 228 and House Bill 310 covered underage drinking and both were passed in the 2006 session.

If you are charged with any other violation that results in a suspension for the same event, the suspension under this law must run “concurrently” (that means “at the same time”).

In addition, a related House Bill 525  created a two-tier set of administrative penalties for drunk driving. Now

  • Driving under the influence (DUI) is driving with a blood alcohol concentration between .04 and .08
  • Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher 

Read more on the bill. The bill also sets up an “Ignition Interlock Program” that will allow you to participate in this program and receive a restrictive license instead of a suspension. You must meet certain criteria to qualify.

Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration provides helpful information on "What Young Drivers Need to Know About
Driving, Drinking, and Drugs".

Using A Wireless Device

See the People's Law Library article on "Texting" or Using a Telephone While Driving.

Wondering what is happening in other states on this issue? The Governors Highway Safety Association is a non-profit that maintains a listing of state laws restricting cell phone use.

The issue of cell phone use is hotly debated. Here are some of the opinions.

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a 2008 report entitled, "Driver Distraction Review of Current State of Knowledge".
  • The Impact off Driver Cell Phone Use on Accidents - A Brookings research paper looking at 7,000 drivers with 3 key findings including that the impact of cell phone use on accidents varies by population. They found some overestimation of the positive impact of a ban on cell phone use.
  • National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration – This federal government website includes discussion areas and a list of papers on driver distractions including cell phone use. It also includes their policy and statement on cell phone use while driving.

Tests: Blood test, breath test, DNA test

You should also know the law about refusing to take a test of blood or breath if you are stopped and are suspected of driving while high. (House Bill 525 became law in 2006.)

New legislation has been passed (2008) regarding DNA samples taken from defendants in Maryland.  The requirements are outlined below.

SB 211- Entitled: Public Safety- Statewide DNA Database System – Crimes of Violence and Burglary – Sample collections on Charge – Post conviction DNA testing 

  • This bill requires the court to advise a defendant in a criminal case, when all charges against the defendant are disposed of by acquittal, probation before judgment, nolle prosequi, or stet, that the defendant may be entitled to expungethe records of any DNA sample and DNA record relating to the charges(s). 
  • It also requires a DNA sample to be taken from any individual charged for certain crimes of violence or felony burglary.
  • The bill sets forth requirements for collection, testing, use, and disposal of DNA samples taken from and individual and sets forth additional expungement criteria.
  • This bill clarifies that DNA must be destroyed if the person is never charged or convicted after being arrested.
  • The bill establishes procedures for the use of DNA evidence in certain court proceedings and requires that certain reports be submitted annually to the governor and the General Assembly.
  • This bill takes effect January 1, 2009 and requirements to collect DNA samples from charged individuals end December 31, 2013. Finally, you can read more about your rights if stopped by the police at a website operated by FindLaw, a commercial website paid for by attorneys seeking clients.

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Is this legal advice?

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