HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Alabama State Trooper Curtis Summerville spends a lot of time talking about teen driver safety.
But when he recently addressed a group of parents and asked how many were aware of Alabama's Graduated Driver's License law, not one person raised a hand.
Yet, it's a topic covered extensively in Driver's Education classes. So, why don't more parents know?
Simply put, Summerville says the kids don't tell them.
After all, this is a law that limits how many friends a 16 or 17-year-old driver can have in the car or which hours they can drive. Why tell Mom and Dad?
However, Summerville is quick to point out, "this law is not here to punish teenagers or punish parents. It's actually to give people more time behind the wheel."
The law, originally passed in 2002 and revised in 2010 and 2015, is intended to safeguard teen drivers from the most dangerous distractions and/or driving environments. Giving them time to gain experience, before turning them fully loose on the roads.
"We have found through different studies that... the time the child is driving or how many people the child has in that car, it greatly affects his ability to safely operate that motor vehicle."
So, here's what you need to know about the law.
It applies to all 16-year-old drivers, as well as 17-year-old drivers who have had a license for six months or less.
These drivers may NOT:
- Have more than ONE non-family member in the car, unless accompanied by a parent, guardian or supervising licensed driver at least 21 years of age.
- Operate a vehicle between midnight and 6:00 am, unless accompanied by a parent, guardian or supervising licensed driver at least 21 years of age. The supervising driver must have parental consent. Other exceptions are made for drivers traveling to or from work, a school or religious-sponsored event, or a hunting/fishing trip (with a proper license). Of course, emergencies are also exempt.
- Drive while using an non-essential handheld communication device
- Violations will result in an extension of the restrictions and/or license suspension.
In addition, state law also requires at least 50 hours of supervised driving practice. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency recommends at least 16 hours of that practice take place after sunset.
Trooper Summerville also tells parents not to be afraid to practice in varying weather. In fact, he says it's vital that young drivers get this type of experience, while with a responsible adult.
"If it's raining, we say, 'oh, we're not going to drive because it's raining.' That's the key time to get a child out and drive...often times, that child's first time driving on wet road conditions is when they're by themselves."
Parents are also urged to play the "What If" game with their young drivers. What will you do if that car cuts in front of you? What will you do if you start to lose control in that curve?
You can't protect them from everything on the roads but troopers say you can help them prepare.
If you'd like to learn more, Children's of Alabama offers this Safe Teen Driving Toolkit with additional information and links to online resources.