general article

Maryland Provisional Licenses and Underage Drinking

Maryland Provisional Licenses and Underage Drinking

The State of Maryland treats a driver’s license as a privilege, not a right. While the state of Maryland encourages all new drivers to practice driving, your conduct as a driver can put your driving privilege in jeopardy. Maryland provides for a graduated licensing system so that young drivers can practice driving in a safe environment, and earn greater privileges as they gain more experience.

In Maryland, you can obtain a learner’s permit at age 15 years, 9 months. MD TRANS § 16-103(c)(1). This is your first step to obtaining a license. Once you obtain your learner’s permit, you must practice driving, including driving at night, while under the supervision of a licensed driver. MD TRANS § 16-105(b)(1). The state of Maryland requires that you log at least 60 hours of practice driving accompanied by a licensed adult, who is at least 21 years old. At least 10 practice hours must occur between dusk and dawn. MD TRANS § 16-105(d)(2)(ii).

You must hold a learner’s permit for at least six months, and must be at least 16 years, 3 months old before you can obtain a provisional license. MD TRANS § 16-103(c)(2). You must also show through a certified log that you have completed the 60 hours of practice driving with a licensed adult. MD TRANS § 16-105(d)(2)(iii). At this point, you can apply for a provisional license.

Once you obtain a provisional license, you can legally drive, but you are subject to several conditions. Unfortunately, you cannot drive with friends in your vehicle for at least the first six months that you hold your provisional license. You can only drive with family members, such as a parent, brother or sister or stepsibling. You cannot use a wireless communication device, such as a cell phone, while driving while you have a provisional license. You may also not drive between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. unless accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old or while driving to or from a work, school, volunteer or athletic activity. MD TRANS § 16-113(d)(2),(3).

If you violate these conditions, or others, such as committing a moving violation or a criminal offense, your provisional license could be suspended. Additionally, you must hold your provisional license for at least 18 consecutive months before you will be eligible for a full license. Even one moving violation means that the 18-month clock will restart on your provisional license. MD TRANS § 16-111(d)(1). Parents and new drivers may come up with additional agreements about teen driving privileges. Parents have to co-sign for a license application, and parents can file a written request to suspend the license, if necessary. MD TRANS § 16-108.

If you have completed all the conditions necessary, and have held a provisional license without incident for at least 18 months, you can apply for a full license once you are 17 years, 9 months old. MD TRANS § 16-103(c)(3).

New Drivers and Drunken Driving Violations

Whether you are a teen driver or an adult, a Maryland police officer can pull you over if he or she suspects that you are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. But if you are a teen driver, the consequences can be more severe. The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration imposes an alcohol restriction on the license of every driver under the age of 21. MD TRANS § 16-113(b)(1). Therefore, a driver who is under 21 years old faces license suspension, fines and other criminal penalties if his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) measures .02 or greater. If a driver is convicted of driving while impaired or driving while intoxicated, the driver’s motor vehicle insurance will in all probability be terminated.

In fact, a driver who is under 21 and who is convicted of driving while impaired or driving while intoxicated could be required to participate in the Ignition Interlock System Program for up to three years to retain a driver’s license. MD TRANS § 16-113(b)(4). The Ignition Interlock System Program requires that the convicted driver install a device in the vehicle that he or she will use. The driver must blow into the device to test for breath alcohol content. If the BAC is above a certain limit, the vehicle will not start. These devices can be costly to use, on top of other fines that the state of Maryland will impose.

New drivers who consume alcohol while driving risk jeopardizing their driving privileges. For the safety of other drivers and passengers on the roads and for their own safety, new drivers should think before drinking.