Teens & Intermediate Licenses

How to Handle Your Teen’s Traffic Ticket on an Intermediate License

In Washington State, an Intermediate License is a particular type of license for new drivers. Specifically, any driver that is either 16 or 17 years old will have what’s called an intermediate license. If your teenager just got their license and is starting to drive, you have vigilant about the safety of both your child and your vehicle. While you want to let your teen experience the joy and freedom that comes from being behind the wheel, you also want to be sure that your kid won’t create havoc in the process.

That being said, teenage drivers are going to make mistakes, no matter how careful you or they are. Excellent driving habits come with experience, and until your teen has had countless hours behind the wheel, he or she won’t be able to make the best choices while out on the road.

Unfortunately, that inexperience can lead to a variety of situations where your teenager gets a ticket. If that happens, it’s imperative to understand the potential consequences for both you and your child’s intermediate license.

With that in mind, we want to take a look at the best ways to handle your teen’s traffic ticket while they have their intermediate license, including what infractions may be given and the potential fallout from it.

Teen Drivers and Insurance Rates

Even before your teenager hit the road, you had to add him or her to your insurance policy. As you can imagine, untested drivers are a potentially huge liability for insurers, meaning that your rates probably increased by a substantial margin.

Although you can help minimize these costs by having your teen take safe driving courses and get extra experience behind the wheel with you in the passenger seat, the fact is that the average rate hike for adding a teenage driver is about 154% in Washington State.

Unfortunately, there’s not much you and your teen can do to mitigate these expenses. Beyond a few courses and GPA discounts, insurance companies are going to assume the worst and hope for the best, while your rates hang in the balance. Only through years of safe driving can you expect those costs to go down, or until your teenager can afford an individual plan.

No matter what, if your child gets a ticket while driving, that will significantly increase your insurance rates. While the actual percentage can change depending on a variety of factors, you’ll be likely looking at an additional bump of at least five to 20 percent. This would be on top of the increase you just received for simply adding your teenage driver.

Some of these factors that insurers pay attention to include-

The actual age of the driver – the closer your child is to 18, the better it is for your rates.

Moving vs. Non-Moving Violations – if you’re not familiar, moving violations are like speeding tickets, whereas non-moving ones are like parking tickets.

Because the nature of the ticket is so crucial for the insurance company’s algorithms, let’s break down the various reasons why your teenager might get a ticket in the first place.

In Washington, Anyone Under 18 has an “Intermediate License

Driving with Passengers

For the first six months of driving, your child cannot have any passengers under the age of 20, except for immediate family members. Cousins, aunts, and uncles are excluded, whereas siblings and parents are allowed, whether they’re related by blood or marriage (i.e., step-siblings are also permitted).

For the next six months of having an intermediate license, your teen can’t have more than three passengers under the age of 20 who are not immediately related. As you can imagine, this ruling is to help reduce the possibility of teens driving a bunch of their friends around all the time.

Accidents and infractions are far more likely if your child is driving with peers, which is why the law wants certified adults (over 20) in the vehicle at all times.

Driving at Night

For the most part, your teenager can drive at night, except during the hours between one and five a.m. During these hours, your child must have someone over the age of 25 in the vehicle as well. Not only that, but the person has to have a valid driver’s license as well.

Cell Phones

Adding cell phones into the mix for teenage drivers is a recipe for disaster, which is why all mobile usage is forbidden with an intermediate license. Even hands-free talking or phone usage is banned, except when calling for emergency assistance (i.e., 911).

Simply put, if your teen has a phone in the car, it better be stored securely or turned off while your child is behind the wheel.

Other Infractions

The restrictions we listed above are the unique restrictions placed on an intermediate license. However, keep in mind that your teenager can still be pulled over and issued a citation for anything else while driving, including speeding, failure to signal, driving in the carpool lane illegally, and other infractions.

Thus, it’s imperative that you go over these potential issues that could arise while your teen is on the road, mainly if he or she is going to be driving solo a lot. Having you or another adult in the car can help mitigate the potential for a ticket, but if your teen is driving by his or herself, then you must go over road rules and safety.

Penalties for Violations on an Intermediate License

Violations can be one of three things – first, if your teen disobeys one of the restrictions placed on the intermediate license (i.e., having young passengers in the first six months). Second, if he or she breaks a rule of the road (i.e., speeding). Finally, if your teen is involved in a collision, then it will count as a violation, which could result in a penalty.

  • First Violation – Beyond the ticket itself, the state will issue a written warning to your teenager that will be mailed to your house. Keep in mind that the intermediate license restrictions are in place until your child turns 18.
  • Second Violation – The DOL will send you a letter stating your teen’s license will be suspended for six months or until they reach the age of 18 whichever comes sooner. For example, if the second violation happens only four months before his or her birthday, then that’s how long the suspension will last.
  • Third Violation – Your teen’s license will be suspended altogether until he or she turns 18.

Overall, you want to take each violation seriously. Since once the infractions accumulate and appear on your teenager’s record, the only thing to do is have your child wait out the suspension.

What You Can Do

If and when your teenager does get pulled over and issued a citation, you need to take action immediately. Here are some options available to you.

Pay the Ticket

This option is one of the worst things you can do since it will only raise your insurance rates and put a black mark on your child’s driving record. Remember, each violation builds on the previous one, so you want to keep your teen’s record as clean as possible until he or she turns 18.

Although it may be tempting to pay the ticket and move on, you’ll want to see if you can either fight it or get it dismissed by the court first.

Defer the Traffic Ticket

In the state of Washington, drivers can seek a deferral of one traffic ticket every seven years. On the surface, it can look like a “get out of jail free” card, but in reality, it’s not a good idea to use for your teenager’s first ticket.

The way a deferral works is that you’re essentially entering into a plea agreement with the court. The driver (i.e., your teenager) agrees to not get another violation in the next six to twelve months. Upon completion of this violation-free period, the ticket can get dismissed.

Again, on the surface, this looks like a potentially good idea. However, because you can never be 100% sure that your teen won’t commit another violation (especially if the term is a whole year), entering into this agreement can bite both of you in the end.

If another violation occurs, then the original ticket will go on your teen’s record. Remember that you only get one warning and the second ticket will result in a suspension. Thus, if your teen violates the deferral with a new ticket, they will be looking at a potential 6-month suspension of their driving privilege.

Also, because deferral can only happen once every seven years (even if you complete the term of the deal), it’s not something you want to take lightly.

Consult a Traffic Ticket Lawyer

Overall, your best option is to talk with a lawyer before doing anything with a ticket. If there is any way that your teen can get out of the infraction, then that will be a much better solution than a deferral or paying the ticket outright. Typically, a traffic ticket lawyer can either beat the infraction or get it reduced to a violation that won’t count as a strike against your teenager’s intermediate license. More importantly, save you a ton of money on your insurance rates.

If your teen has gotten an infraction in Western Washington, contact us today. Regardless of the circumstances, we can offer a free consultation and let you know what options are available. Don’t go back to being the taxi driver for your teenage son or daughter.

How Often Do You See Driving Tickets For Teen Drivers In Washington?

Teen drivers are more likely to get into an accident than any other type of driver. Research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that 16- to 17-year-old drivers are nine times more likely to be involved in a crash than adults.

So, it’s no surprise that we see, and fight, many infractions incurred by new teenaged drivers.

Washington State has a special program for teens in this age bracket, issuing an “intermediate license” to 16- and 17-year-old drivers. An intermediate license comes with certain restrictions, plus additional penalties for traffic infractions. For the first six months, these teens can’t have any passengers younger than 20, except immediate family members. For the next six months, they may drive no more than three passengers under 20 who aren’t members of their immediate family.

Nighttime driving restrictions also apply to intermediate-license holders. These teens can’t drive between 1-5 a.m., unless they’re with a licensed driver who is at least 25.

Cell phone violations carry strict penalties; a cell phone ticket counts as a strike against a teen’s intermediate license.

If a teen with an intermediate license is cited for any type of moving violation, or a violation of one of these special restrictions, their parents or legal guardian receive a warning letter from the Department of Licensing. If the teen gets a second ticket, the repercussion is a license suspension for six months or until the youth turns 18, whichever comes first. A third violation results in a driving ban until age 18.

From the standpoint of insurance rates, teen driving tickets can be a nightmare for parents. Teens are among the “riskiest” group of drivers to insure because of accident statistics and their lack of driving experience.

For a one-car family, adding a teen driver to their family’s insurance policy typically increases the bill by 44%, according to Insurance.com. Two-car families see an average jump of 58%, while three-car families are hit with a 62% average increase.

When ticket costs are added to these pricey insurance rates, parents are looking at a significant expense. Parents must realize that the ramifications of their teen getting tickets while driving on an intermediate license include these long-term insurance consequences on top of the cost of the actual ticket.

Should you use a deferred finding for a teen’s ticket?

A common problem I see with teenage drivers is using a “deferred finding” on their first ticket.

The Washington State Legislature created the deferred-finding program to give people an opportunity to keep an infraction off their driving records. Once every seven years, a driver can use a deferred finding for one moving violation and one non-moving violation. The court essentially is pushing the pause button on the ticket and entering into an agreement with the driver. The driver pays a fine, usually $150 to $200, and if they receive no more tickets within a set probationary period, typically six months to one year, then the ticket is dismissed.

A few drawbacks come with deferred findings. First, the driver cannot receive any more tickets while they are on probation. Receiving an additional ticket, would revoke the deal and the individual could be looking at having TWO infractions added to their driving record at the same time. In addition, drivers may only get one of these deferrals every seven years.

My general philosophy on deferrals: use them only if no other options are available.

In my experience with teen drivers, a teen who gets a ticket within their first year of driving typically receives a second one shortly after. I often get calls from parents with the same story: “We used a deferral on my child’s first ticket and they just got a new one. I can’t go back to shuttling them around, and I can’t afford to pay any more for insurance. Is there anything we do?”

Hindsight is 20/20, but please don’t use a deferral on a teenager’s first ticket without first consulting with a traffic ticket attorney. Although this option does give your child an opportunity to keep the ticket off their record, they likely will be looking at a license suspension if they violate the deferral by getting an additional ticket.