CONYERS -- The Georgia Department of Driver Services is reminding teens of their driving restrictions as the holiday season approaches, when teens might be more tempted to break driving laws by staying out late or having a restricted amount of passengers in their vehicles.
"Buckling up is the first safety step, but please be mindful of teen passenger restrictions and the limited driving hours," said DDS Commissioner Gregory C. Dozier in a press release. "These laws are mechanisms which support safe teen driving, and they do make a difference with lowering crashes and fatalities when observed."
Restrictions for drivers 16 to 18 years of age holding a Class D license include no driving between the hours of 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. with no exceptions, according to the Georgia DDS.
Additionally, those drivers have passenger restrictions. For the initial six-month period immediately following the issuance of a Class D license, any Class D license holder shall not drive a motor vehicle when any other passenger in the vehicle is not a member of the driver's immediate family.
During the second six-month period immediately following issuance of a Class D license, any Class D license holder shall not drive a motor vehicle when more than one other passenger in the vehicle is not a member of the driver's immediate family and is less than 21 years of age.
After the second six-month period, any Class D license holder shall not drive a motor vehicle when more than three other passengers in the vehicle are not members of the driver's immediate family and are less than 21 years of age.
Additionally, the Georgia Legislature recently passed new teen cell phone legislation which forbids any teen operating a motor vehicle from any cell phone use, including texting, which also is prohibited by any age drivers.
"The students do tell me that the occupancy law or restrictions are most routinely broken by the teen drivers," said Rockdale County Public Schools' driver education instructor Charlie Bryant. "I'd bet that most parents are unsure of the exact wording of the law ... and, I am sure that most of the teen violators of law don't even tell their parents."
He said some parents may chalk it up to a minor rule violation, but they need to pay more attention.
"If the student is in violation of this law, there is a great legal risk to the parent if, in the unfortunate incident, the teen is in violation of the law and his or her occupant is severely injured or killed in a collision," Bryant said.
Young drivers, ages 15 to 20 years old, are especially vulnerable to death and injury on roadways -- traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in America, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Bryant added that the risks for teens drivers increase dramatically from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. and even more so after midnight.
"This is the purpose of the curfew, and I would hope the legislature would, at some point, include restrictions for newly licensed teens from driving after 9 p.m. for the first six months," he said.
The DDS encourages teens to take a practice road rules test at www.dds.ga.gov and view the most recent version of the Georgia Driver's Manual. Teens also must pass a state-mandated alcohol and drug awareness program to address the danger of drinking and using drugs while driving, which also is accessed on its Web site with other driver training information.