Graduated Licensing in Connecticut: Reducing Teen Car Accidents

The factors involved in any vehicle accident can vary widely. From seasonal hazards caused by slippery roads to the ever-present risk that a drunk or distracted driver's lapse of attention will cause a fatal Connecticut car accident, every driver must be aware of the dangers that are present on roads and highways.

A recent Connecticut motor vehicle accident near Manchester High School provided a valuable lesson to four teenagers. News reports indicated that their vehicle was struck after the teen driver apparently attempted an abrupt U-turn from a parking space when a police cruiser t-boned the sedan. Both vehicles suffered major damage, but the occupants reportedly suffered minor injuries despite the huge impact evident on the driver's side of the teens' car.

Inexperienced drivers need time to learn how to avoid accident risks, and Connecticut drivers licensing laws recognize the fact that car crashes are the most likely cause of death among teens. In Connecticut and many other states, graduated driver licensing rules incrementally authorize driving privileges and keep young drivers off the road under circumstances determined to be most dangerous to themselves and other motorists.

Connecticut's Licensing Scheme for Aspiring Teen Drivers

The first hurdle to gaining full driving privileges in Connecticut is the learner's permit. Applicants must be 16 years old and are required to pass a test that includes 25 questions about highway safety, traffic laws and other factors. Minor drivers who aspire to a learner's permit must also have parental consent, acknowledging that parents may be the best judge of a particular teen's likely fitness as a driver.

Connecticut teens who have obtained a learner's permit can only drive with adult supervision. They are allowed no passengers except licensed driving instructors, parents (if they themselves are licensed to drive), or another licensed adult at least 20 years of age who has had a license for at least four years without a recent suspension.

Obtaining a license is the next step, based on a series of qualifications that require teens to gradually become familiar with driving skills and traffic laws:

  • Holding a learner's permit for a minimum of 120 days if enrolled in a licensed driving school, or 180 days if taught by parents
  • Completing 30 hours of state certified driving curriculum and 40 hours of behind-the-wheel training (parents or guardians who administer this training must themselves complete a two-hour course)
  • Successfully completing a road skills test at a Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles site
  • Passing the DMV's final exam

After a driver younger than 18 receives his or her license, several other rules significantly curtail driving privileges until adulthood. Newly licensed teens are prohibited from:

  • Driving between 11pm and 5am, except for a school-, work- or religion-related reason, or due to a medical necessity
  • Using cell phones, including hands-free cell phones or any other mobile electronic device
  • Carrying passengers for the first six months, with the same exceptions listed above for learner's permit holders
  • Carrying passengers for the next six months except for immediate family members

In addition, any driver under 18 who is suspected of a passenger violation, intoxicated driving, speeding in excess of 20 mph above posted limits, racing, or reckless driving is subject to an immediate 48-hour license suspension as well as standard sanctions for these violations.

Teen drivers aren't the only motorists who are subject to Connecticut's graduated licensing restrictions. In light of the fact that motor vehicle operation skills can be affected by illness, disease or a traumatic injury, the CT DMV has developed standards in conjunction with its medical advisory board to issue restricted licenses that limit driving privileges based on a driver's medical condition. This includes restrictions involving non-daylight hours, corrective lenses, prohibiting some drivers from using freeways, requiring automatic transmissions and special adaptive controls and equipment.

Targeted Drivers License Restrictions: Limits for Some, Safety for All

While everyone wants to be treated equally under the law, the devastation caused by serious and fatal car accidents is a tried and true rationale for graduated licensing schemes. In Connecticut, fatal motor vehicle accidents involving teens have steadily decreased since strict teen passenger limits passed in 2007.

However, incidents like the recent crash at Manchester High are a clear reminder that all dangers cannot be legislated away — that teen car accident occurred at high noon. When traffic violations, distracted driving and other negligence by teen drivers lead to injuries to passengers and other motorists,  Connecticut auto accident lawyers can help injury victims and wrongful death survivors explore civil justice remedies to hold wrongdoers fully accountable.