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Fast Facts from the DPS

Graduated Driver License Program

The Graduated Driver License Program, created by Senate Bill 577 in 2001, goes into effect January 1, 2002. The program creates two phases of driving requirements for minors under age 18.

Grandfather Clause

      Any individual who receives either their instruction permit or provisional license before January 1, 2002 will not be affected by the new graduated system. They are grandfathered out of all phases of the new graduated system.

Phase One Requirements

  • Applicants under age 18 must hold an instruction permit or hardship license for a minimum of six months before a provisional license is issued.   Once the applicant has completed this phase and meets all other current licensing requirements, they "graduate" to phase two-a provisional license with restrictions.  (See "Phase Two Requirements" below for details.)
  • The minimum age for the licensed operator required to accompany an instruction permit holder in the front passenger seat increases from 18 to 21.

 

Phase One Enforcement

  • Street enforcement of phase one will begin in a limited fashion January 1, but only for permits issued after January 1.
  • Initially, the permit will be stamped to better assist patrol officers in determining if the new 21-or-over provision for licensees accompanying permit holders applies.  This will eventually be replaced by language on the permit itself.  If the permit does not specify the 21-or-over provision, the old standard of 18-or-over will still apply and enforcement action may not be applicable.

Phase Two Requirements

      Once the applicant has held a driving permit for six months, completes an approved driver education course and reaches their 16th birthday, they are eligible to progress to phase two-a provisional license.  In phase two, driving privileges of provisional licensees are restricted for the first six months of issuance.  During that six-month period, the applicant may not:

  • have more than one passenger under 21 years of age who is not a family member,  or
  • operate a vehicle after midnight and before 5 a.m., unless driving is necessary for employment, school or school-related activities or a medical emergency. 

      Please note that the passenger and time limitations in phase two do not apply if the provisional license holder is accompanied by a licensed operator age 21 or older in the front seat. 

Phase Two Enforcement  

  • Since applicants must have an instruction permit for six months under the new law, patrol enforcement of  phase two restrictions will not begin until July 1, 2002.
  • Officers must look on the back of the license to determine if enforcement is appropriate. The language under the restriction code will state "TRC 545.424 applies until MMDDYY."  If that date has passed or there is no entry, enforcement action is not necessary.

Miscellaneous:

  • A law officer cannot use this law as probable cause for a traffic stop.
  • The legal driving age in Texas remains 16.  (An applicant may still apply for an instruction permit at 15.)
  • 46 states and the District of Columbia have some form of a graduated driver license system.