If your teen is in high school or soon to be, they’re probably dreaming about getting their driver’s license. It may be time to get their learner’s permit or time to start planning for it. Wherever you are in the process, getting a driver’s license in Washington depends on several factors. As a parent, the thought of your teen driving can be a bit scary. You want to help them be ready for this new responsibility and to be safe on the road. Here’s a guide to Washington State driving laws.
Instruction Permits in Washington
Getting an instruction permit is the first step. Students enrolled in a driver’s education course are eligible to apply for a learner’s permit when they are 15 years old. Teens who aren’t enrolled in a driving school for teens must be 15 and a half to apply for a learner’s permit. Instruction permit applications must include proof of identification, proof of residency, and a Parental Authorization Affidavit. Applicants must pass a vision exam and a test on local traffic laws and traffic signs to be eligible for a permit. The written exam may be waived for teens enrolled in driver’s education courses.
Instruction permits are valid for one year. Permit holders can drive under the supervision of a driver’s education instructor or at least one other licensed adult who has been driving for at least five years. Minor drivers are prohibited from cell phone use while operating a vehicle. Distracted driving is one of the top causes of car accidents for teens and Washington state takes this regulation seriously. The more driving practice your teen receives, the better. It’s always a good idea to enroll your teen in driver’s education classes. The best place to start teaching your child to drive is a large parking lot where they can practice smooth starts and stops. They should get plenty of practice on side streets before attempting to drive on busy roads or highways. The best tip is to provide them with as much practice as possible before they begin driving on their own.
Intermediate Driver’s License
Driving age by state varies. The next step for teens in Washington state is to obtain an intermediate license. Applicants must:
- Be at least 16 years old
- Have had their permit for six months
- Provide proof of driver’s education
- Have signed confirmation of 50 hours of supervised driving
- Show proof of 10 hours of supervised nighttime driving (Part of the 50)
- For six months prior to applying, applicants cannot have any tickets or at-fault accidents. Applicants cannot have a DUI or drug conviction while holding a driver’s permit.
Privileges and Restrictions
An intermediate driver’s license holder may drive unsupervised except between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. During these hours, the teen must be supervised by a parent, guardian, or another licensed driver who is at least 25 years old. Drivers with intermediate licenses are prohibited from using cell phones or electronic devices while driving.
For the first six months, teens with intermediate licensure are prohibited from carrying non-family member passengers under the age of 20. After six months, they can carry up to three non-family member passengers under the age of 20.
Lifted Restrictions After 12 Months
Teens must hold an intermediate driver’s license for 12 months with no tickets or at-fault accidents for restrictions to be lifted. At this point, the passenger and curfew restrictions are lifted.
If a teen gets a traffic ticket or a restriction violation, their parents will be notified. If it happens a second time, their license will be suspended for six months.
Getting an Unrestricted Driver’s License in Washington State
Teen drivers with intermediate licenses are automatically eligible for an unrestricted license when they turn 18 years old. Drivers do not need a new license after turning 18. The Department of Licensing drops all restrictions at this point.
If your teen is 18 and plans to apply for a license for the first time, they do not need an intermediate license. They will receive a regular driver’s license instead.
Insurance Requirements for Teen Drivers
By law, teen drivers must carry liability insurance when they begin driving unsupervised. Parents should add their teens to their insurance after they receive an intermediate driver’s license.
It’s often more affordable to add your teen to your existing policy versus purchasing a new policy for them. Adding your teen to your policy will likely cause your premium to increase significantly.
Their reasoning for this is clear. Teens are more likely to have accidents than adult drivers. Because of this, there’s more risk for the insurance company and greater cost for you.
Be sure to ask your insurance agent about any discounts available for good grades. Remember, the cheapest policy isn’t always the best choice.
Always read the fine print and make sure you and your teen have adequate coverage.
Teens and No-Fault Accidents
What happens when a teen driver has an accident that isn’t their fault? It’s very important your teen knows to call the police after any car accident.
You want to ensure a police officer comes to the scene. They will provide a collision report which designates who’s at fault for the accident.
This is important information to keep your teen from being unfairly penalized while they have an intermediate license. Above all, if your teen is in an accident, they should see a doctor, even if their injuries seem minor.
Teens and Washington State Driving Laws
If your teen is ready to start driving, it’s an exciting time. It can be a little scary to think of your teen being on the road, however.
That’s why it’s a good idea for teens and parents to be aware of Washington state driving laws. For safety reasons, consider enrolling your child in safe driving courses.
At Swerve Driving School, we focus on the most important skills your teen needs to be a safe and confident driver. As a parent, you can feel peace of mind knowing your child is receiving top-notch instruction. Contact us today to get started.