Teen Driving Laws in Texas—What Every Teen and Parent Needs to Know
Attorney Brian White | September 16, 2020 | Texas Laws
Texas operates on a graduated driving system for underage drivers, allowing restricted driving privileges that eventually lead to an unrestricted license. Texas has a graduated system to reduce the number of accidents caused by inexperienced teen drivers.
For a teen, getting a driver’s license is a right of passage that brings excitement, but for parents, it is steeped in fear. Parents worry about their child and the safety of other motorists on the road. Most teens remember the first time they drive away alone in a car as an exhilarating sense of freedom. Most parents remember the same event, yet for them, it is a sense of terror tinged with sadness that they are growing up.
Texas Requirements for Teen Drivers
Teen drivers are required to take a driver’s education course approved by the Department of Public Safety. Once completing the course, they are eligible to take a written exam that tests their knowledge about the rules of the road. When they pass the exam, they receive their learner’s permit. To apply for a learner’s permit, the teen should bring:
- Proof of U.S. citizenship
- Proof of their residency in Texas
- Proof of their identity
- Their social security number
- Evidence of a vehicle registered in Texas
- Proof of insurance for the vehicle
- The Driver’s Education Certificate showing completion of the classroom portion
- Verification of enrollment and attendance
Texas ties enrollment and attendance at school to the ability to hold a learner’s permit and a provisional driver’s license. Students must provide proof of attendance at a public or private school, or show proof that they are homeschooled.
In most cases, they must hold this permit for six months before being eligible for a behind-the-wheel test. When they have a learner’s permit, they are permitted to drive with a licensed adult driver age 21 years or older in the vehicle with the teen.
Teen drivers are restricted from using all wireless communication devices, including hands-free, except in the case of an emergency. Teen drivers should know that they risk a suspension of their driving privileges if they use a cell phone while driving.
The teen must be at least sixteen and complete thirty hours of behind-the-wheel driving before they can take the behind-the-wheel test to be issued a Phase Two provisional license. Once the teen has a Phase Two license, they are limited to one passenger under the age of 21 who is not a family member. They also cannot operate a motor vehicle between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m. unless it is necessary for school or work.
The provisional license expires on a teen’s 18th birthday and must be renewed as a non-restricted license within thirty days.
Important Information for Parents and Teens
Texas has a zero-tolerance policy enacted to discourage teens from drinking. A minor that attempts to purchase the consumer possesses alcohol is committing a crime. Any detectable blood alcohol level will result in a mandatory suspension of their license. The legal limit of .08% does not apply to anyone under the age of twenty-one.
In addition to a suspension of their license, teens are treated as adults when it comes to DWI offenses. Parents should have multiple conversations with their teens about the laws in Texas regarding drinking or using drugs and driving.
Having even a minor accident is a frightening event, and it is crucial that young drivers know what to do if they are involved in a car accident. Let them know that the first thing they should do is notify the police. Let them know that they may have injuries they are unaware of and that they should move the car to safety if they are able.
Advise them never to admit fault. It is easy to blame young drivers for any accident, but the teen driver may not have caused the accident. Tell them to explain what happened to the responding officer calmly, and the officer will determine who was at fault. Remind them always to exchange insurance information with the other driver and to take photos of the scene if they can safely do so.
Use this opportunity to go over what they should do during a traffic stop. Remind them that they should never, under any circumstances, attempt to evade police attempting to pull them over. They should also know that they should never leave the scene of an accident. Teens are prone to poor decision making, especially if they are fearful. Remind them that whatever the situation, they can only make it worse by attempting to leave.
Though your teen will have been taught all these things in their driver’s education course, it is crucial that you model safe driving behavior. Talk frequently about the dangers of distracted driving, the importance of wearing a seatbelt at all times, and paying attention to the road no matter what distractions are happening.
Distracted driving has now surpassed drunk driving in accidents and injuries, so consider using a distracted driving prevention app. There are several available, and they make it possible to prevent the use of a cellphone while the car is in motion. You can also use the app to monitor their driving habits, something they won’t appreciate, but can be an invaluable tool in keeping them safe.