How Many Passengers Can Teen Drivers Have?

Are you a newly licensed teen driver – or a parent of one? If so, congrats – getting your license is an important milestone. As attorneys who help car crash victims, we know all too well that driving also comes with risks. Today, we want to help you understand how many young passengers new teen drivers can have in the State of Washington.

This post will cover:

  • How many young passengers can a teen driver have in their car?
  • How risky is it for a new driver to have young passengers?
  • What are the consequences for violating these restrictions?

How Many Young Passengers Can a 16- or 17-Year Old Driver Have?

For the first six months, a newly licensed 16- or 17-year-old driver can’t have any passengers under the age of 20 in their vehicle. However, the teen driver may have young passengers if they are part of their immediate family, such as a sibling. After six months, the teen driver can have up to three passengers under the age of 20. (Again, with an exception for immediate family members.) When the teen turns 18, these restrictions will go away, and they will have full licensing privileges.

So, let’s recap:

  • First 6 months of intermediate license: No passengers under the age of 20
  • After 6 months: Up to 3 passengers under the age of 20
  • Exceptions made for teen driver’s immediate family members
  • Restrictions lift at age 18

To see the law for yourself, head to RCW 46.20.075.

Incidentally, if you are an 18- or 19-year-old newly licensed driver, these restrictions do not apply. In other words, you may have young passengers in your vehicle.

Why Are There Passenger Restrictions for New Teen Drivers in Washington?

Passenger restrictions for new, young teen drivers in Washington State exist to save lives. The CDC tells us that newly licensed, 16- and 17-year-old drivers are at increased risk for being in a crash.

The table below shows how much the risk increases for every young passenger a teen driver adds to his or her vehicle:

Number of Young PassengersRisk of Fatal Crash
144% Greater Risk
2Doubles the Risk
3 or moreQuadruples the Risk

Source: AAA

As you can see, the risk increases exponentially for each young passenger added. Remember, a new driver is still gaining valuable experience behind the wheel. Restricting young passengers during the initial six months is one way to reduce the risk for fatal crashes.

Older Passengers Reduce Crash Risk

There’s an important exception to this discussion of new drivers and passengers. If a teen drives with a passenger 35 years of age or over, the chance of a fatal crash goes down by 62%! Further, the chance of any police-reported crash goes down by 46% (Teft, Williams & Grabowski).

These numbers show us the value of older, experienced drivers riding along with new teen drivers. In the State of Washington, a 16- or 17-year old will need 50 hours of supervised driving time as part of their intermediate license requirement. However, we think it’s a great idea to extend those supervised hours as well as periodically ride along with your teen even after they’ve received their license.

What Will Happen if I’m Caught with More Passengers?

Getting caught violating these intermediate driver’s license restrictions can have tough consequences, including losing your driving privileges. So, we don’t think it’s worth risking it.

For a first-time offense, a letter will be sent to the driver’s parent or guardian. The second time it happens? Your license will be suspended for six months or until you turn 18, whichever comes first. And the third time, you’ll lose your license until you turn 18.

Drive Safe and Smart

We hope that we’ve been able to answer your questions today. However, if you’d like more information on this topic, please see our post on Washington State Teen Driving Laws. We’ve also written a post called 7 Things Parents Can Do to Help Their Teen be a Safe Driver.

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