Drivers Licenses & Teens

Generally the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration may not issue a learner’s permit to anyone who has not reached 15 years and 9 months; a provisional license to anyone who has not reached 16 years and 6 months; or a license to anyone who has not reached 18 years old.

Read the Law: MD Code Transportation §16-103

Learner's Permit and Provisional License.

Before age 18 you can, with parent’s or guardian’s permission, 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 obtaining the same driving license as an adult.

For more on the Rookie Driver, Maryland’s graduated licensing system for new drivers, visit the Maryland MVA’s Provisional to Regular License webpage at http://www.mva.maryland.gov/drivers/rookie-driver/general.htm.

While there, you can also 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.

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 its 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”

Minor Driver Restrictions

MVA may not issue a learner’s permit to an applicant under 16 if the applicant has more than 10 unexcused absences from school during the prior school semester.

Read the Law: MD Code Transportation §16-105(a)(3)

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.

Read the Laws: MD Code Transportation §16-206(b); MD Code Courts & Judicial Proceedings §3-8A-23(a)(5)

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.

Read the Laws: MD Code Transportation §§ 16-105; 16-111; 16-603

The MVA is required 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 law.

Read the Law: MD Code Transportation § 21-808

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.”

Read the Law: MD Code Transportation § 21-1123

FAQs

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 driver's 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 exception.  All of the above rules apply.

Drunk or Drugged Driving 

Maryland has enacted major changes to its drunk and drugged driving laws over the past several years including increased penalties and expansion of the ignition interlock program.  . For a minor, if convicted under these laws, your license could be suspended for up to two years.

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”).

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.

In addition, the MVA has created a separate two-tier set of administrative penalties for alcohol and drug related driving offenses for violators under age 21. 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 the Law: MD Code Transportation §16-205.1

The law 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.

Read more about Maryland’s Impaired Driving Laws on MVA’s website at http://www.mva.maryland.gov/drivers/impaired/maryland-impaired-driving-l...

Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration also 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.

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