My son is about to turn 15, which means he is about to get his learner’s permit to drive. Things aren’t as simple as they were back when I was getting my license. “TADRA” stands for Georgia’s “Teenage and Adult Driver Responsibility Act.” TADRA came about from a collaboration between highway safety advocates, lawmakers, and educators after a high number of fatal accidents involving young, inexperienced drivers.
In order to get a learner’s permit, (a class “CP” license) you have to be at least 15 and pass a written test consisting of road rules and signs. At that point, you can drive so long as you are with someone who is 21 in the passenger seat, that person has a valid Class C license, and that person could take over if they had to. (This means that you can’t use your 15 year old as a designated driver.)
Once you have had your class CP license for 12 months and one day (yes, “and one day”) and assuming you haven’t committed any major traffic violations, you can take a road skills test. At that time, In order to take the road test at the age of 16, a Department of Driver Services approved driver education course must be completed. Assuming you have passed this test, you get a Class D license.
With a Class D license, you can drive yourself without anyone in the car. However you cannot drive between midnight and 5 a.m. There are no exceptions whatsoever to this rule. If you are driving, and you break your midnight curfew, you have violated not just Mom’s law, but Georgia law as well. During the first six months you have a Class D license, you can’t have any passengers who are not a member of your immediate family*. During the second six months you have a Class D license, you can’t have more than one other passenger (who is not a member of your immediate family) who is less than 21 years old. After that, so long as you have a Class D license, you can’t have more than three other passengers in the vehicle who are not members of your family and who are less than 21.
There is an inconsistency here – did you catch it? When you are learning to drive, any licensed driver over 21 will do. For the first six months after you have your license, you can only be with a member of your immediate family. Don’t ask me why. I read the code section several times (O.C.G.A. 40-5-24-(2)(B)(ii)) as well as a FAQ put out by the Department of Driver Services, and that seems to be the way it is.
Once you turn 18, you can get a Class C driver’s license, which is a “regular” driver’s license with no restrictions, provided you have not had any major traffic convictions in the last 12 months.
A “major traffic conviction” for these purposes is a conviction for DUI, hit and run, leaving the scene of an accident, racing, fleeing or eluding a police officer, reckless driving, aggressive driving, speeding more than 24 miles over the speed limit, or any offense which gives you four or more points on your license.
When you are young, these rules probably seem a bit restrictive and harsh. They are not written to make your life difficult: they are written to save your life. Until you have experience behind the wheel, you don’t know how you will react in many situations. You don’t need to be driving tipsy, tired, or distracted.
*Immediate family for purposes of this law means “parents and step-parents, grandparents, siblings and step-siblings, children, and any other person who resides at the license holder’s residence.”
Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice. It is being offered for informational purposes only. No lawyer can advice you about your case without discussing the particulars of your situation with you.