Even though drivers can obtain a driver’s license in the State of Illinois at age 16, there are restrictions on this license not present for full driver’s licenses and there are enhanced penalties for specific traffic violations. The purpose of this blog post is to (1) explain the basics of the Illinois Graduated Driver Licensing Program, (2) point out specific offenses that place the young driver at risk of a license suspension, (3) explain the penalties under 18 drivers face, and (4) explain the importance of retaining an attorney for your young driver.
Illinois Graduated Driver Licensing Program basics
Illinois drivers can obtain a permit to drive on the roads at age 15. They need parent/guardian consent, have to pass a written and vision test, and must be enrolled in a driver education program if under the age of 17 years and 3 months. Drivers aged 17 years and 3 months or older can obtain a permit without being enrolled in driver education.
The permit is good for two years and authorizes the young driver to practice driving with a driving instructor or an adult aged 21 or older who has had a license for at least one year prior. Any moving violation conviction (court supervision does not count as a conviction for these purposes) while the driver has a permit will result in a mandatory nine-month waiting period after the ticket is resolved until the driver can apply for a driver’s license.
Permit drivers are prohibited from driving between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. on school nights (Sunday night through Thursday night) and between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. on the weekends. These nighttime driving restrictions apply even if the permit driver has a parent sitting right next to them.
Drivers operating a vehicle with a permit are limited to one passenger in the front seat (who must be the licensed driver supervising the permit driver) and as many passengers in the back seat as there are seat belts.
Once the young driver reaches the age of 16, has completed a driving education course, and has practiced driving on the permit for at least 50 hours, the driver can apply for a driver’s license.
Driver’s licenses for under 18 drivers are graduated, with the driver being granted increased levels of driving privileges over time. The big restriction that most drivers run afoul of is the limitation on passengers in the car. For the first 12 months of being licensed (or until the driver reaches 18 years old), the driver is limited to one passenger under the age of 20 in the vehicle outside the family. So, the driver can drive his two siblings around town without issue, but the driver cannot drive all of her friends around for a year.
What happens if the young driver receives a traffic ticket?
Relax, it’s not the end of the world. Your biggest concern should be correcting the driver’s bad habits and coaching him to adopt safe driving practices.
There are two big effects: (1) Your already-high insurance rates will go up. If your 16 year old gets a ticket, it’s probably time to tell him to get a part-time job. (2) Setting the financial aspects aside, what happens if the young driver gets a ticket? Well, fortunately for the driver it’s pretty difficult to lose her license.
There are two rough categories of traffic offenses for young drivers: serious traffic violations and everything else. A “serious traffic violation” is:
Sec. 1-187.001. Serious traffic violation.
(a) A conviction when operating a motor vehicle for:
- a violation of subsection (a) of Section 11-402, relating to a motor vehicle accident involving damage to a vehicle;
- a violation of Section 11-403, relating to failure to stop and exchange information after a motor vehicle collision, property damage only;
- a violation of subsection (a) of Section 11-502, relating to illegal transportation, possession, or carrying of alcoholic liquor within the passenger area of any vehicle;
- a violation of Section 6-101 relating to operating a motor vehicle without a valid license or permit;
- a violation of Section 11-403, relating to failure to stop and exchange information or give aid after a motor vehicle collision involving personal injury or death;
- a violation relating to excessive speeding, involving a single speeding charge of 26 miles per hour or more above the legal speed limit;
- a violation relating to reckless driving;
- a violation of subsection (d) of Section 11-707, relating to passing in a no-passing zone;
- a violation of subsection (b) of Section 11-1402, relating to limitations on backing upon a controlled access highway;
- a violation of subsection (b) of Section 11-707, relating to driving on the left side of a roadway in a no-passing zone;
- a violation of subsection (e) of Section 11-1002, relating to failure to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian at an intersection;
- a violation of Section 11-1008, relating to failure to yield to a pedestrian on a sidewalk; or
- violation of Section 11-1201, relating to failure to stop for an approaching railroad train or railroad track equipment or signals; or
(b) Any other similar violation of a law or local ordinance of any state relating to motor vehicle traffic control, other than a parking violation.
(c) A violation of any of these defined serious traffic offenses shall not preclude the defendant from being eligible to receive an order of court supervision under Section 5-6-1 of the Unified Code of Corrections.
(Source: P.A. 98-511, eff. 1-1-14.)
625 ILCS 5/1-187.001. Some of these offenses are more serious than others, but they’re all the same for purposes of a license suspension. Your driver can only receive supervision once for any of these offenses. Any second offense that the prosecutor does not amend to a different supervision-eligible offense will result in a conviction.
Convictions are bad because they extend the passenger limitations of the Graduated Driver’s License by six months. From a parent’s point of view, that may be a good thing, though.
For all other offenses, two convictions in any 24 month period (running from the disposition date of the first conviction to the date the second ticket is written) will result in a one-month license suspension.
And, any violation of the nighttime driving restrictions can result in a license suspension.
License suspensions for drivers are not a lot of fun because the driver must complete remedial driver’s education, fill out obnoxious DMV paperwork, and pay a $70 reinstatement fee to get her license back.
Special quirks with Graduated Driver’s Licenses
Supervision is preferable to receiving a conviction, but it comes at a cost. Young drivers cannot receive supervision with the mail-in option for tickets. That means at least one court appearance is required, and whenever you step foot in a courtroom expect ludicrous court costs tacked on to the fine at the back end (for example, I’ve seen a $25 fine receive $200 in court costs). The driver’s parent or guardian has to come to court for the court to grant supervision. And, any disposition involving court supervision for a driver on a Graduated Driver’s License has mandatory traffic safety school.
Should you get a lawyer?
For any serious traffic violation, absolutely. The driver will have the best chances to keep his license if an attorney is able to successfully resolve the ticket. Moreover, for the types of violations that involve property damage or other, more serious crimes (e.g. transporting alcohol, which can be charged as a misdemeanor and involve jail time), an attorney will help your young driver avoid digging herself into a deeper hole by admitting liability when it should be in doubt or by confessing to a crime. Get a lawyer if you can afford one.
For non-serious violations, probably. An attorney will give your driver the best chance to obtain court supervision for the ticket, minimizing the effect on the driver’s license and for your insurance rates.
If your child has a traffic ticket in McHenry County, Illinois; Kane County, Illinois; or Lake County, Illinois, give me a call at (815) 317-5193. I’m always happy to talk over the phone, and we could probably work something out to protect your kid’s license and your insurance rates.