Washington Teen Driving Laws: What You Need to Know

There are tough Washington teen driving laws, and for good reason. Research shows that young drivers are vulnerable to being in motor vehicle accidents. Over time, laws have been enacted to ensure teens gain more supervised practice and curb risky driving behaviors.

Understandably, this can be a lot for parents to navigate. If you are a parent reading this, chances are things were different when you got your license at 16!

In this post we’ll help you understand:

  • What an Intermediate Driver’s License is and how to get one
  • Important Intermediate Driver’s License restrictions
  • Consequences for violating restrictions
  • What happens when your teen turns 18
  • Understanding insurance requirements
  • Steps to take if your teen has been in a no-fault accident

What is an Intermediate Driver’s License?

Washington State issues an Intermediate Driver’s License to teen drivers under the age of 18 who meet the requirements. The IDL has restrictions to help reduce teen crashes.

In order for your teen to get their Intermediate Driver’s License, they must:

  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Have held a learner’s permit for at least 6 months
  • Passed a driver’s education course
  • Passed both a knowledge test and driving test
  • Have a parent, guardian, or employer certify that the teen has completed at least 50 hours of supervised driving time, of which 10 hours were completed at night.
  • Not committed an infraction for the 6 months they’ve held their permit
  • Not been convicted of an alcohol or drug-related offense in the past 6 months

As you can see from the list above, this is quite a list of requirements. If your teen is hoping to receive their license on or close to their 16th birthday, plan accordingly. In Washington, your teen can receive their learner’s permit when they turn 15 years old, if they have registered for a driver’s education course.

Intermediate Driver’s License Restrictions

It’s important that your teen understands the restrictions of their new Intermediate Driver’s License.

Let’s look at each of the restrictions.

Restriction TypeRestriction Details
PassengersYour teen cannot have passengers under the age of 20 in their car in the first 6 months of receiving their intermediate license. There are a couple notable exceptions. They can have an immediate family member under the age of 20 (such as a sibling). Also, this restriction is lifted if there’s a medical emergency. After the initial 6 months, your teen is limited to no more than three passengers under the age of 20.
CurfewYour teen may not drive between the hours of 1am through 5am, unless accompanied by a parent, guardian, or licensed driver at least 25 years old. Another exception is if your teen driver works for an agricultural business.
Mobile Device UseYour teen is prohibited from using a mobile device, such as a cell phone, while driving. Please note, this includes using hands-free features! The only exception to this restriction is for emergency use, such as to report illegal activity or call for medical help.

Remember, the law is subject to change at any time. To learn more, please see RCW 46.20.075. We’ll also periodically review the information on this post to make sure we’re giving you current information.

Consequences for Violation an IDL Restriction

As you might imagine, there are consequences if your teen violates any of their Intermediate Driver’s License restrictions or commits a traffic infraction.

Here’s what will happen:

Number of ViolationsConsequences
First ViolationA warning letter will be mailed to the teen’s parent or guardian.
Second ViolationTeen’s license will be suspended for 6 months or until teen turns 18 (whichever comes first), and a letter will be mailed to the teen’s parent or guardian.
Third ViolationTeen’s license will be suspended until they turn 18, and a letter will be mailed to the teen’s parent or guardian.

To be clear, there may be additional penalties such as traffic tickets and insurance premium increases, depending on the infraction. You can see RCW 46.20.267 for more information.

When Your Driver Turns 18

If your teen has kept their Intermediate Driver’s License in good standing, it will automatically become a regular license when they turn 18. There is no further action to take.

If your teen is 18 and applying for the license for the first time, they can apply for a regular license by fulfilling the Department of Licensing requirements. In other words, they will receive a regular license, not an intermediate license, because of their age.

Insurance Requirements for your Teen Driver

By law, your teen needs to carry liability insurance when they start driving unsupervised. Simply put, you need to add them once they receive their Intermediate Driver’s License.

Usually, it’s most affordable to add your teen driver to your existing insurance policy versus having them carry their own. Even so, adding a teen driver will likely cause your insurance premium to significantly increase. The reason is simple. Teen drivers are more likely to be in a motor vehicle accident. Therefore, the insurance company assumes more risk.

We recommend you ask your insurance agent for any discounts, such as for holding good grades. Even so, the cheapest insurance plan isn’t always the best. Make sure you carry adequate insurance coverage.

When Your Teen Has Been in a No-Fault Accident

What happens if your teen has been in an accident that wasn’t their fault? In this situation, it’s important that a patrol office respond to the scene. An officer’ collision report can help establish who was at fault. This is valuable information that could prevent your teen from being unintentionally penalized while holding their Intermediate Driver’s License.

In the unfortunate event your teen is injured during the accident, please feel free to reach out to our car accident attorneys for help. There’s no cost to speak to us about what happened, and we can help explain your legal options. Should you choose to use our help, we only charge a fee if we’re able to win you a settlement.

Happy Safe Driving!

We hope this post has informed you more about Washington teen driving laws.

If you would like more support on this topic, please see our post called 7 Things Parents Can Do to Help Their Teen Be a Safe Driver.

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