By Atlanta DUI Lawyer and Criminal Defense Attorney Bubba Head
Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States between the ages of 16 and 19. Statistics also show that the first year behind the wheel of a motor vehicle is the most dangerous time for fatal crashes for any driver, teen or otherwise. But many young drivers do not “drive smart” and thus have a much higher incidence of wrecks and fatalities than older drivers who begin driving when older. Teen car wrecks are a major problem in Georgia.
In 2005, the state of Georgia legislature passed Senate Bill 226, also known as Joshua’s law, a tough new Georgia teenage driver law. The law was passed in honor of Joshua Brown, a Cartersville teen driver from whose family pressed for stricter Georgia driving laws for teens following his death.
Prior to Joshua’s Law, the Peach State had no mandated a defensive driving requirement for our youngest drivers. The graduated license law brought Georgia teen driving restrictions that have later been adopted in multiple other states.
Among other things, the new law required all teens under the age of 17 who apply for a Class D Georgia driver’s license on or after January 1, 2007 to show proof that he or she has taken certain driving lessons. This shows that the youthful future driver has successfully completed a Georgia DDS-approved drivers’ education course from a Certified Driver Training School.
The goal of these new teen driving laws is to not assume that all parents can or will take the time to instruct their children who become young drivers on all the proper rules of driving safety.
In an overall broad statement, it should be noted that drivers under age 21 are penalized (via loss of driving privileges) for any major traffic convictions like hit and run, reckless driving or DUI in Georgia. Plus, their rules for “points” accumulation are more strident and punitive.
Since the now-famous “Georgia 6 month driving rule” bears his name, it is helpful to know the history behind it. Joshua Robert Brown was a 17-year-old from Cartersville, Georgia who loved football, baseball and music. He had been accepted to a prestigious northeast college to pursue his musical interests following his high school graduation.
However, while driving a pickup truck in the rain at a speed higher than the posted limit, the vehicle hydroplaned Because of his musical talent, he was accepted into a prestigious music school in Boston, where he planned to attend after his high school graduation.
On July 1, 2003, he was driving on a two-lane road in the rain when his truck hit a puddle of water and lost traction. The truck hydroplaned and could not be steered, crashing into a tree. He later died from his injuries on July 9th.
Georgia lawmakers overwhelmingly agreed with Joshua’s father, Alan Brown, that legislation could prevent some deaths by using a multi-step driver’s ed course. Human factors experts predicted that this early licensing driver license law for teens would be something that would help reduce the high number of deaths and crippling injuries. The goal of Joshua’s Law is to avoid such tragedies by requiring important, prior driver training.
This law mandates special driver training via a certified driver education course. This may be either a certified course under instruction by a state-approved school, licensed by the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS). It can also be accomplished under your parents’ or guardian’s oversight. The program is to be comprised of two parts, theory and practical (on the road).
The theoretical part involves a minimum of 30 hours of instruction. This may be in a classroom or taken online on the Internet. The online course will be a DDS-approved driver online course. Parents seeking to handle the training can receive a complimentary DDS Parent/Teen Driving Guide.
The novel law led to a 3-stage “graduated” licensing law under OCGA 40-5-24 is aimed at lowering the number of fatalities of young Americans. Three different restricted driving levels were enacted on 3 different six-month periods of time.
Step 1 prohibits the Class D driver from transporting any non-related persons for six (6) months. Step 2 covers the youthful driver’s second six months of operation, allowing the new driver to have only one peer (non-related) passenger in the vehicle he or she is operating. After one year behind the wheel, a GA teen driver in Step 3 of the Georgia teen driver law can have no more than three other passengers who are not related in that vehicle.
A complex and detailed path to early licensing must be followed for a driver to start driving at age 16 or 17. The package of prerequisites for 16-year-old drivers is the most detailed and extensive. Those rules are set forth below for 16 and 17-year old applicants.
Required Documents for the 16-year old Applicant for a Class D License
1. Proof of having had a valid learner’s permit for one year and one day.
2. Your Georgia DDS certificate of attendance which must be notarized by your driving school representative.
3. The A.D.A.P. certificate of completion of a 30-hour driver education course at a state-certified driving school.
4. A driving experience affidavit must be completed at the GA Department of Driver Services affirming the applicant has a minimum of 40 hours of driving, 6 of which must be at night. (A parent will sign form at a nearby GA DDS customer service center, and this can be done before you apply.)
5. Bring proof of valid vehicle registration and liability insurance for that same vehicle used on road test. This is almost always your parents’ insurance on a family-owned vehicle.
To Be Eligible for and Maintain a Class D Provisional Driver’s License
1. No driving between midnight and 5:00 a.m. for any reason.
2. During the first six months of driving with the provisional license, the only related people who live in the same house.
3. During the second 6 months of driving with the provisional license, additional passengers other than family members may ride in the car, but only one unrelated person can be under the age of 21.
4. After those first twelve (12) months, the law permits up to three passengers under the age of 21 who are not part of your immediate family to ride as passengers in the car.
5. For the remaining 12 months of your provisional license before applying for a full Class C license, the teen driver must not have any major traffic convictions for the type of traffic violation that results in a license suspension. DUI, reckless driving, hit and run are some of these, along with any 4-point violations for high speed traffic tickets for speeding.
6. To be eligible for a Class C license, all applicants who turn 18 and seek to be licensed for the first time must take the road test skills test and score a minimum of 75% correct answers.
Joshua’s Law Requirements for 17 Year Olds
Some young Georgians opt to delay applying for a driver license. If they wait until 17 years old, teen drivers are not required to take a driver education class. However, these young people must still complete a cumulative total of at least 40 hours of supervised driving experience, with at least 6 hours of night driving.
Applicants also must pass the DDS GA road test skills test with a minimum grade of 75% correct answers. Plus, for this, a parent or guardian must be present. Go to this instructional permits and graduated licensing law link for the wording of Georgia law.
If your youthful driver is facing loss of his or her driver’s license, call the Georgia attorneys who have handled over 10,000 traffic-related criminal cases. for a FREE consultation Yes, all traffic offenses are misdemeanors, once put on your record. For the best legal services and accurate legal advice, call our Sandy Springs DUI lawyers anytime day or night. Our law office phone is answered 24/7.
Where a loss of driving privileges is the legal issue, and an alternative solution can be worked out, we are the law office to call. Our three award-winning attorneys in Atlanta can offer a game plan in almost all cases. Ex-cop Cory Yager, AVVO superstar Larry Kohn and William C. Head, better known as Bubba Head, are here to assist you.
Our law firm has relationships with criminal lawyers near me in every part of Georgia. These local connections and courtroom litigation experience are the key to successfully navigating the tough license suspension penalties that teen drivers face. Early action is critical, since UNDOING a suspension is less likely and more costly to handle. For a free lawyer consultation, call today 404-567-5515.