Provisional drivers cruise past restrictions

Nicole Stock

When sophomore Will Martens went to court after getting caught driving with underage friends in Tiburon, he thought there would be no way to keep his provisional license.

Martens had been pulled over and found in violation one of two main restrictions on provisional licenses. According to Section 12814.6 in the laws of the California Department of Motor Vehicles, he technically could lose his provisional license for the violation.
When Martens was given his court date he expected to face a judge about his violation. Instead, he just had to pay a fine in Courtroom C-10, where the cases of most juvenile traffic violations are settled.

Many students bypass provisional license restrictions, yet some evade full consequences.
Many students bypass provisional license restrictions, yet some evade full consequences.

“I didn’t have to talk to a judge or anything,” Martens said. “The woman said the law was just a fine, not a court hearing, and you don’t lose your license.”

The DMV states that if new drivers break these restrictions on their provisional licenses, they run the risk of losing their license until the age of 18. However, according to local teens, the courts are not following through on their claims to crack down on these laws.

The California DMV restricts drivers during their first year of driving, from driving people under 20 years of age. In addition, new drivers may not drive between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless they are accompanied by a licensed adult over 25 years of age, or a driving instructor.

According to Officer Elmer Arce of the Central Marin Police Authority, while the police are responsible for citing drivers, the consequences for breaking the provisional requirements are left up to the courts.
“Depending on the severity of the violation, the court decides what happens next,” Arce said.

While most newly-licensed drivers are threatened with the loss of their license if they break the restrictions, the disconnect in enforcing the consequences between the courts, the police department, and the DMV has left the provisional license rule breakers driving off with a fine instead of the loss of a license.

Fear of the consequences of breaking provisional license restrictions is enough to prevent some new drivers from breaking the law, yet sophomore Nolan Cassidy, who also has his provisional license, says that he disagrees with the way the officials have implemented the restrictions.

“They have to put them on because they know some people are going to get hurt,” Cassidy said. “But they are too strict. Kids are going to want to drive kids no matter what, so they should put some slack on it.”

Cassidy and Martens are not alone in their discontent with the restrictions. However, research demonstrates that teenage drivers are among the most at risk on the road, especially new drivers during their first 12 months of driving.

According to research reported by the Center of Disease Control in 2010, drivers who are between the ages of 16 and 19 are at a higher risk to be in a car crash than drivers from any other age group.

The CDC also states that drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are three times more likely to be in a fatal car crash per mile driven than adults over 20 years of age.

However, Cassidy said that the restrictions should depend on the person. “Some kids have had more practice, but some kids are horrible behind the wheel.”