Bending the “One Year Law”


Graphic by: Dennis Lubensky

By Haydn Wall

The accident rate for 16-year-old drivers is 3.7 times higher than that of drivers of all other ages. As a teenager, it’s my job to believe I am impervious to this statistic. I’m not a reckless driver, but the amount of confidence I have in my driving ability is misplaced given that I don’t always come to complete stops at stop signs and I sometimes text a friend at a stoplight. Though I drive with confidence, I’ve only been driving on my own for about ten months, so I’m in no place to claim any real experience.

I’m not alone in this overinflated sense of skill; my peers act like they were born to drive. However, upon seeing them do so, you might wonder if they can tell the difference between a white and a yellow line.

In an attempt to stop the hundreds of fatalities of young drivers and their passengers each year, the state of California passed AB 1474 in 2005, which prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from driving minors during the first year after they get their license.

The state presumes that when teenagers have their friends in the car with them, they are more likely to be distracted.

This may be true, but the “one year law” is, from what I can tell, the single most disregarded law by teenagers. I hear people talk about breaking the “one year law” more than breaking curfew, and half the people reading this are will be surprised we have a curfew.

Graphic by: Dennis Lubensky
Graphic by: Dennis Lubensky

Despite the disdain we have for this law, it has its benefits. Most of us dislike it because we think it’s unnecessary and ineffective. We think we’ve earned our licenses already and should get to drive whomever we want, or we think the state should get rid of the law entirely because we break it enough anyway.

While I recognize the apparent stupidity of having a law that no one follows, I think that that in itself is the strength of the law. Yes, we break the law, but have you been in a car with someone driving minors illegally? They are sitting up straight, checking their mirrors every 2-5 seconds, using blinkers to change lanes, coming to full and complete stops, and following the speed limit.

We can’t get in trouble for driving our friends before the year if we don’t get pulled over, and the knowledge that the cops have to have a reason to pull us over makes us do everything we can to stop that from happening. We go from the overconfident, borderline reckless drivers that we are, to a Drivers Ed teacher’s dream student.

The “one year law” gives us a chance to practice safe driving habits that we wouldn’t if we could drive our friends as soon as we got our license. This period of safe driving doesn’t last very long; we soon revert back to our denial of accepted driving conventions.

It’s easy to fall back into believing that we are above the law and all who enforce it. Though this period of abnormally safe driving is short-lived, the “one year law” at least gives us a little time to drive consciously and safely.