New California Driving Law Would Extend Curfew, Passenger Restrictions to Under-21 Drivers

Sweeping changes for young drivers in the country's most populous state.

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There are over 25 million licensed drivers in California—the most populous state in the country—and soon, many of the youngest ones could be facing much tougher restrictions if Gov. Jerry Brown signs a new law that was passed by the state legislature on Wednesday, reports the Associated Press.

Currently, teenage drivers under the age of 18 in the state are required to take a driver's education class before receiving a permit and later a 12-month provisional license that requires they stay off road between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.. They're also not allowed to drive with anyone under the age of 20 in the car unless accompanied by a 25-year-old licensed driver. If you're 18 or older, you can just walk in and apply for a normal license.

The new bill aims to raise the age cutoff for all those restrictions to 21. That would mean anyone under that age would still have to apply for a permit before getting a license, show proof of driver's ed, and endure the same 12-month provisional period. It makes exemptions for military members, people with proof of work or school obligations, emergency personnel, and commercial drivers, but it would still mean a large change in how people are licensed in the biggest pool of drivers in the country. If it's signed by the governor, it will go into effect in 2020.

According to the Sacramento Bee, the legislation was introduced by an assemblyman who lost his 20-year-old daughter in a car crash. It's certainly commendable to try and limit the destructive potential of young people at an age where their brains are still developing, and we've all had to swerve to avoid a collision with some stupid kid at one point or another. Less of that is always a good thing.

On the other hand, this is the sort of law that becomes difficult to comply with and enforce at the upper end of the spectrum. A 20-year-old with a job or a class or a religious obligation is really expected to carry proof with them in the car at all times? And since it's a secondary offense, the only way an officer can catch a violation is by pulling someone over for another reason.

Of course, as long as parents know a law exists, sometimes that's all the enforcement you need.