Teenagers are an interesting group of drivers. In some ways, they're often the most knowledgeable about traffic laws, at least on paper – after all, a freshly licensed teenager has likely spent hours pouring over their state's traffic laws, and most drivers who have been licensed for a few decades spend very little time reviewing the same material. On the other hand, they're also the least experienced drivers, which makes them more likely to make a mistake or use poor judgment when driving. When a teenager gets a traffic ticket, what's a parent to do? Will you even know about it? Should you pay it or fight it? Take a look at some things that parents of teen drivers need to know about teens and traffic tickets.
Teenagers Are Under Additional Restrictions
Teen drivers may be more likely to make a mistake than adult drivers, but it's worth keeping in mind that in many states, there are more mistakes for teens to possibly make than there are for adult drivers. Teens are often subject to additional restrictions while driving that adults don't have to worry about. For example, under the graduated license rules for teenagers in Minnesota, teens may not use a cell phone – even with a hands-free device – while the car is moving. Texting and driving is against the law for all drivers in Minnesota, but only teens (and commercial drivers) are restricted from using a handheld or hands-free phone.
Teens in Minnesota are also prohibited from driving with more than one passenger under the age of 20 during the first six months of their provisional license and are subject to restrictions on driving after midnight and before 5am during that time. Many states have similar laws in place. That means that your teen could get a ticket for giving a lift to more than one friend or coming home too late at night—something that an adult would never get a ticket for.
Teenagers' Licenses Are Easier To Suspend
Along with the additional restrictions, it's also easier to suspend a teen's license in many places than it is to suspend an adult's license. When you get a traffic ticket, you are assessed a certain amount of points on your license. Too many points, and you lose the license temporarily. In Colorado, for instance, teens under the age of 18 can have their license suspended if they accumulate as little as 6 points in a year, or 7 points in 2 years. Adults over the age of 21 would not face suspension unless they accumulated 12 points in a year or 18 points in two years.
So not only are teenagers under additional restrictions, but any violations will also result in a suspended license a lot faster. And traffic violations are not expunged at the age of 18 like many juvenile offenses are. Teenagers convicted of minor crimes are often given a clean slate when they turn 18, but if your teenager's license is suspended for a year when they are 17, the suspension probably won't be lifted on their 18th birthday, nor will the record be removed from their driving history. That means that traffic tickets and license suspensions can follow your child into adulthood, interfering with their ability to drive to work, get a job that involves driving, or buy affordable insurance.
What Parents Can Do
The first thing you need to do is make sure that you're aware of any tickets that your teen receives. Teenagers are sometimes reluctant to share this information with their parents. Some states automatically notify the parents of a teen driver when the teen gets a ticket. Other states, like New York, have voluntary notification systems that parents can opt into. In some states, you may have to pull your teen's driving record yourself. No matter what the laws of your state, you should keep the lines of communication open with your teen – it's always best if they come to you first with a traffic ticket. Let them know that you may not necessarily restrict their driving privileges over a ticket, depending on the circumstances, but you definitely will if they try to hide the ticket. You can't help them if you don't know about the ticket.
Because the consequences of a traffic ticket for a teen can be especially severe, you should definitely consider the option of fighting your teen's traffic ticket in court. With a good defense, you may be able to have the ticket thrown out, or at least keep points from being assessed. This can keep your insurance rates down and protect your teen from consequences that could follow them into adulthood.
A good traffic attorney can help you get your teen's traffic ticket dismissed or the penalties reduced. In the long run, paying an attorney could cost you far less than dealing with the cost of the ticket, the possibility of higher insurance premiums, and other associated costs. Contact a traffic lawyer from a law firm like Walsh Fewkes Sterba in your area to find out how they can help your teen driver.