Being a Responsible Teen Driver

From the Office of  Senator Mark DeSaulnier

What you need to know about driving, underage drinking and the immunity law.

consequences of underage drinking

California’s underage DUI laws are among the toughest in the nation and each year, drunk driving laws get tougher and the punishments more severe. Underage drinking is an important issue that the California Legislature continues to address.

Even though the legal drinking age in all 50 states is 21, alcohol is still the most commonly abused drug among teens. Young people who begin drinking at an early age are at risk for social, emotional and behavioral problems, including drinking and driving, as well as physical problems.

You should be aware of the consequences of underage drinking. It can rob you of your hopes and dreams for the future – you can even lose your life.

zero-tolerance law

You don’t have to be drunk to lose your license. Under California’s zero-tolerance law, it is mandatory for a driver under the age of 21 to have his or her license suspended
for one year if caught or arrested with any measureable alcohol in his or her blood.

driving under the influence (dui)

The costs related to a first-time misdemeanor conviction of dui can easily exceed $25,000, not to mention lost work time, medical costs and property damage. Underage dui convictions must be reported on college and employment applications and convictions stay on your driving record for 10 years.

general laws

Under the California Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, individuals not of legal
drinking age are prohibited from:

  • Entering and remaining inside a California bar. Minors who are caught drinking alcohol in a bar will be fined a minimum of $200.
  • Purchasing, attempting to purchase or possessing alcohol.
  • Drinking or transporting alcohol.

immunity law

Individuals under the age of 21 are now provided limited immunity if they seek help for, and remain with, a friend during an alcohol-related emergency. The new law protects underage individuals who, acting in good faith, call 911 to obtain medical attention for a friend they suspect might be a victim of alcohol poisoning or other alcohol-related problems. Previously, those under the legal age for drinking could be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor.

teenage driver license

The PROVISIONAL DRIVER LICENSE (PDL) program (or the Brady Jared Teen Driver Safety Act) imposes limitations on teen drivers. The PDL program establishes parameters for when and with whom a teen can drive.

But before you get a PROVISIONAL DRIVER LICENSE, you must have held an instruction permit for at least six months.

instruction permit

At 15 ½, you may obtain an INSTRUCTION PERMIT; you must be enrolled in or have
completed driver education and behind-the-wheel training. You must also pass a written test on driving laws.

With an INSTRUCTION PERMIT, you may not drive alone. You must practice with a driver who is 25 or older.

provisional driver license

At 16, you may obtain a PROVISIONAL DRIVER LICENSE. You must have completed driver training and pass a behind-the-wheel test. With a PROVISIONAL DRIVER LICENSE, you must be accompanied by a driver who is 25 or older to transport passengers who are 20 or younger, or to drive between 11 pm and 5 am.
For exceptions, visit the DMV website at

breaking the law

Violations of the PROVISIONAL DRIVER LICENSE law will cost teenagers $35 for the first offense, plus eight hours of community service, and $50 for the second and subsequent offenses, with 16 hours of community service.

checklist to obtain a provisional driver license

✓ complete driver education
✓ pass the written exam at your local DMV office
✓ obtain your instruction permit and then
✓ complete behind-the-wheel training
✓ pass the behind-the-wheel test at your local DMV office
✓ obtain your provisional driver license

when you are 18

The law now holds you (not your parents) responsible for your actions. You now assume liability for your own traffic violations and accidents.

You must carry proof of insurance when you drive. If you are a student, your parents may be able to keep you on their car insurance until you are 24 but only if they are co-owners of your car. Otherwise, you will have to get your own insurance.

teen drivers should know

Drivers under 18 are prohibited from using cellphones. After you turn 18, you
may only use a hands-free cellphone while driving. be aware:
⊲ texting while driving is against the law
⊲ reckless driving is a crime
⊲ speed contests are against the law
⊲ it is illegal to throw objects from the car
⊲ you must stop after any accident
⊲ driving without a license is a misdemeanor
⊲ you may get a ticket for blaring horns or loud music
⊲ it is against the law to smoke if you or anyone in the car is under 18
⊲ it is illegal to carry a passenger in the trunk

for more information, visit the DMV website at

Senator Mark DeSaulnier

Capitol office
State Capitol, Room 5035
Sacramento, CA 95814
tel 916.651.4007
fax 916.445.2527

District Office
1350 Treat Blvd., Suite 240
Walnut Creek, CA 94597
tel 925.942.6082
fax 925.942.6087 .


About Kevin

Mayor - City of Oakley, Data Center Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit and Transplan
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