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Doubling Up on the Law

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I find myself lecturing my poor kids about driving. You can just feel the eyes rolling, right?

Sarah Bowman: My 16-year-old and her boyfriend each got a parking ticket last week on a big date to a yogurt shop. They were following the law and driving in their own cars, but weren't so smart about where they left their cars in pursuit of the yummy self-serve with lots of toppings. 50 bucks a ticket! That's one expensive date.

teens driving separate cars

OK, so she's going to pay me back for the ticket because she has (ahem) had more than one in these first few months of being a new driver. But it was a bummer to get busted on this particular evening because, as two 16-year-old drivers, they were being extra careful to follow the law. When you get your license in California as a teenager, you aren't allowed to drive another person under 21 for the first year of your provisional license. The rate of accidents with multiple teens in the car is astounding, and this law is designed to cut back the fatal statistics. And yet, this is a rule that most kids ignore.

Having an underage passenger is only a secondary offense, meaning that a new driver will only be penalized for this infraction if they're pulled over for a more serious offense. Most teens take this as a not-so-serious law, and I've heard just about every excuse for breaking it. Of course, there's "everyone does it." "But, she doesn't have a ride and volleyball practice is only three blocks away," or "We're saving the environment and taking one car." It's not hard to be swayed by their logic, and sadly there are too many parents that turn their heads and let their kids double up. But it's a slippery slope. Letting two girls hitch a ride to something a few blocks away soon becomes taking a friend who doesn't have a car to a party one night, and eventually, they'll stop even asking our permission for what they consider to be No Big Deal.

The harder road to take is to teach them that the law exists for a reason. I find myself lecturing my poor kids about how many years I have logged behind the wheel and how her reactions need to be honed over time. You can just feel the eyes rolling, right? The argument I win on is that from an insurance point of view, we'll be in the poor house if anything happens during this statistically perilous time. If we as parents managed to get our kids to appointments before they had a license, the fact that they could drive themselves doesn't give us the hall pass to never drive them anywhere again. I sure miss those days of carting her around everywhere. Now, it's just my frantically beating heart that is out there with her -- going through every imagined intersection, with every adjustment of the radio dial, and with every buzzing of the cell phone. I just hope we can beat the odds.



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2 comments so far | Post a comment now
Karen July 10, 2009, 11:29 AM

Wow. Interesting law. I can see why it makes sense, but honestly I’d rather have 4 teenagers in one car than 4 individual teenagers driving 4 separate cars.

Harland Rodger February 15, 2011, 5:37 PM

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