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Alabama’s “Graduated Driver License” Laws

Jan 22

I have recently been asked to summarize Alabama’s Graduated Driver License (GDL) laws which concern teen drivers. This Alabama law went into effect July 2010 and reorganized driver license laws for teen drivers. 

The GDL laws place a teens driving status into three “Stages,” each of which have different restrictions and meanings. These laws do not apply to teens 18 or older; teens who are 17 or older who have had a valid driver license for six months or longer; or teens who are 16 or older who are married and considered head of the household.   

A Stage I driver license is commonly known as a “Learner’s Permit.” Under Stage I, the potential teen driver must be 15 or older, and must pass a written driver’s examination based on information in the Alabama Driver Manual. This manual is available at the local Probate Office or for download at www.dps.alabama.gov. A Stage I license authorizes teens to drive when accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or licensed driver who is age 21 or older and occupying the front seat beside the licensee. Teens may also drive when accompanied by a licensed or certified driving instructor occupying the front seat beside the licensee. The Stage I exam fee is $5.00 and the license fee is $23.50. 

A Stage II driver license is a commonly called a “Restricted License.” To obtain a Stage II license, the teen must be 16 or older. The teen must also have permission from parent or legal guardian to receive a Stage II license and drive without supervision. Stage II applicants must complete a road skills examination with a passing grade, again based on the Alabama Driver Manual. Stage II drivers cannot drive during the hours of midnight to 6 a.m. unless: 1) accompanied by a parent or legal guardian; 2) accompanied by a licensed driver who is age 21 or older with the driver’s parent or legal guardian’s consent; 3) going to or from an event sponsored by school or a religious organization; 4) going to or from the driver’s place of employment or 5) driving for the purpose of a medical, fire or law-enforcement related emergency. A Stage II teen driver cannot have more than one passenger in the vehicle other than parents, legal guardians or family members and cannot use any handheld communication devices while driving. The Stage II license fee is $23.50.

 A Stage III license is an unrestricted or regular license. To obtain a Stage III license, the teen must be 17 or older and have a Stage II license for at least six months before applying for the Stage III license. Teens 18 and older may apply immediately for a Stage III license without having had a Stage II license as long as they pass the road skills examination. The Stage III license fee is $18.50 for those who present a Stage II license and receive a restriction-free duplicate. The fee is $23.50 for those who did not obtain a Stage II license prior to turning age 18.

Violations of any of the graduated driver license law restrictions will result in the restrictive period being extended by six months or until the licensee reaches age 18. Violations of the above conditions are considered traffic violations, but the licensees will not be subject to any criminal penalties or court costs. No citation will be issued unless the licensee is stopped for a separate violation of the law and issued a citation or warrant for the separate violation. No points will be assessed for violation of the above restrictions.

 If a licensee is convicted of a second moving traffic violation or is convicted of failure to give information, render aid, racing, fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer, reckless driving, illegal passing, driving on the wrong side of the road or any other offense where four or more points are assessed, his or her license will automatically be suspended for 60 days.

 Additionally, any child 12 years or older is subject to a “disciplinary point system” that may restrict a teen’s ability to obtain a driver license. Under this law, each student over the age of 12 who is enrolled in a public or private secondary school shall be subjected to a disciplinary point system to determine the age at which the student shall be allowed to apply for a driver license of any kind. Each point adds one week to the age at which the student is eligible to apply for a driver license, including a Stage I learner’s permit.

Under this point system, one day of in-school suspension is 1 point, one day out-of-school suspension is 2 points, alternative school placement is 6 points, and expulsion is 20 points. The points accumulate on a yearly basis, beginning with the school year in which the student turns 13, and accumulate each year until the student is eligible to apply for a driver license or learner’s permit.  

The age at which a student may apply for a license or permit, however, shall not be extended beyond one year from the date the student initially applies for a driver license or learner’s permit.
Further, points may not accrue for the first three days of in-school suspension in any school year; however, beginning with the fourth day of suspension in any school year, all days, including the first three, of in-school suspension shall be counted in determining the points. Points may not accrue for an initial out-of-school suspension of two days or less in any school year; however, the days of the initial suspension shall be used to determine the points after a second out-of-school suspension in any school year or all days will be used to determine points if the initial suspension exceeds 2 days. Finally, any accumulated points shall be reduced by one-half if the student has not received additional accumulated points for one school year. If no additional points are received for two years, all records of the accumulated points shall be removed from the student’s records at the school.