Maine Graduated Driver’s License Program
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 16 drivers involved in fatal accidents in 2014 were under the age of 20. While this number is simply far too high, it does reflect a drop from a ten-year high of 38 in 2006. Part of this decline in new driver fatal crashes is because the state started a three-stage program that gives these drivers more time to build the skills and gain the experience they need to be safe drivers.
Teens enter the first stage of the program when they turn 15 and can take the test for the learner’s permit. While holding this permit, the youth is to acquire 70 hours or more supervised driving experience. Ten of those hours must be driven during the night. The person who supervises the youth must have had their license for at least three years and be 25 years or older. Any time this person is acting as a driving supervisor, they must sit in the front passenger seat.
After turning 16 and having accumulated the required hours of driving practice while having the permit for at least 12 months, the youth can take the road test for their intermediate, restricted license. During this time, the driver does not need a supervisor unless they are driving between midnight and 5 a.m. or carrying passengers other than their immediate family. The restricted driver can’t have non-family passengers for 270 days after getting their restricted license.
At age 16 years and nine months, providing the driver has completed an approved driving education course, the driver is eligible for full driving privileges and an unrestricted license.
Important Laws Specific to Underage Drivers
Maine has Zero Tolerance for young drivers who drink and then get behind the wheel. Any driver under the age of 21 who has any measurable amount of alcohol in their blood will lose their license for 12 months. If they refuse to take a test for impairment will automatically lose their driver’s license for 18 months. If the driver is transporting someone aged 21 or younger and they test above 0.0 blood alcohol concentration (BAC), an 180-day license suspension will be added to the original penalty.
Young drivers need to know that despite their age, they can be prosecuted for the criminal crime of Operating Under the Influence (OUI) if they have a BAC of 0.08 or above. However, the law requires a 12-month driving suspension on top of any other penalties.
It is also important to note that those operating on a learner’s permit or an intermediate license are banned from texting or using a cell phone or hand-held electronic device while operating a vehicle. As primary enforcement laws, a person can be stopped by law enforcement for either of these reasons.