Teenage drivers are limited for first year after getting a license

The in basket: When I was just out of high school, I was driving my dad’s old Chevy station wagon with three friends with me, leaving a round of golf at what was then Clover Valley Golf Course in South Kitsap.

As we approached Sedgwick Road on Long Lake Road, a car that had stopped at the stop sign ahead of us was beginning to pull onto Sedgwick.

“Don’t stop!” one of my passengers said. “If he can make it, you can make it.”

Not that sound of an argument, of course, as we couldn’t see what was coming on Sedgwick on either said of the intersection. But I did what he suggested. Luckily, no cross-traffic was close to us and I made it across.

I think of that reckless decision from time to time, as I did after reading a report in a the May 13 Sunday Kitsap Sun about how much more likely a teenager is to die in a traffic accident if there area other teens and no adult in the car. The chances more that double.

My stupidity that day a half century ago was a textbook demonstration of that hazard.

The story says every state now has limitations on what a drivers license allows a teenager to do. I looked up this state’s rule, then asked State Trooper Russ Winger, spokesman for the local WSP detachment, whether violating it is a primary or secondary infraction, and how tough it is to enforce it.

The out basket: The law says a licensed driver under age 18 can’t drive with passengers under the age of 20 for the first six months after getting the license, unless the passengers are members of the driver’s  immediate family.

For the next six months, the teen can’t carry more than three passengers who are under 20 years old and aren’t members of his or her immediate family.

Also, for the first 12 months, the teen can’t drive between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. unless a licensed driver age 25 or old is in the car.

And an under-18 driver also cannot use a cell phone while at the wheel, even with a hands-free device.

Trooper Winger said violating those rules is a secondary offense, meaning the driver has to be stopped for some primary offense, such as speeding, before the licensing limitations can support a citation.

Since holding a cell phone to one’s ear or texting is an infraction for all ages, that would be such a primary offense.

“I don’t think it is a frequent violation we enforce,” he said of the license limitations, “but there is some.

“When an officer stops a driver who has the intermediate restriction (the officer) can ask questions but a driver could lie and say the passenger is a family member. Passengers can also lie. I don’t know how much of that goes on.  We are limited in what we can ask of a passenger that has not committed a violation.

“The night time restriction,” he said, “is easy to enforce because of the time of day and/or the passenger would have to prove they are licensed and the (correct) age because they are in effect ‘allowing’ the provisional  to drive with them.

“The bottom line,” Russ said, “is that you must first have a valid reason to stop and contact the driver.”

5 thoughts on “Teenage drivers are limited for first year after getting a license

  1. Dear Travis Baker,

    I would like to suggest that the information given to you by Trooper Winger, regarding a flashing yellow left-turn light was not possibly incorrect. The advice given in your column dated May 16, 2012 may also be in error.

    Here’s why….

    You do note that it is not illegal but it should not result in something that is not legal, as suggested by your column.

    When a vehicle passes under a flashing yellow left-turn light and is legally in the intersection, that vehicle being
    safely in the intersection has the right of way to proceed under caution to complete the left hand turn.

    Since the vehicle in the intersection maintains right of way until the turn is completed, even after the light changes to red, (which by the way, is not up to the driver to estimate) , other vehicles must yield until the turn is completed.

    From the Washington State Traffic codes:

    Chapter 46.61 RCW
    Rules of the road

    RCW 46.61.065
    Flashing signals.

    (b) FLASHING YELLOW (CAUTION SIGNAL). When a yellow lens is illuminated with rapid intermittent flashes, drivers of vehicles may proceed through the intersection or past such signal only with caution.

    RCW 46.61.185
    Vehicle turning left.

    The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left within an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard.

    The rules above seem to apply.
    RCW 46.61.065 seems to apply to the flashing left-turn signal and if followed, places a vehicle legally in an intersection.

    RCW 46.61.185 tells when the turning party yields the right of way. That infers that once a driver is legally in the intersection that he has the right of way except for the period during which there is “any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard” .

    Simply put, the person entering an intersection under a flashing yellow left-turn light has the right of way except in the case where it is relinquished under the rule until the turn is completed. They also, therefore can not be blocking an intersection as all other vehicles are to wait until the left hand turn is completed.

    Thanks,
    Bill O’Rourke

  2. Bill, is your idea that you can make a left hand turn on flashing yellow regardless of oncoming traffic? If so you are mistaken. That is the meaning of a green arrow. The flashing yellow requires you to wait until there is a safe interval in which to turn.

    I think a common sense idea of whether you are yielding the right of way is to ask whether the other traffic has to slow down or stop in order to accommodate your traffic maneuver. If so you are not yielding.

    As to the anecdote in the story. I see cars do this all the time, assuming that they can follow me closely since if I have room then they must have room. But they are relying on me being conservative enough to pick a big gap. If I turn into a gap just big enough for my car then they are in danger.

  3. Bill, I think you’re reading it backwards. “The driver INTENDING to turn left…SHALL YIELD to opposing traffic.”

    The vehicle established in the roadway always has the right of way unless it’s specifically signed or signaled otherwise. Vehicles entering the highway yield to traffic already in the road, the car already in the lane has the right of way over the car trying to change lanes, and vehicles travelling straight always have the right of way over the turning vehicle.

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