News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Young drivers have license restrictions

It’s often overlooked or ignored, but new young drivers operate with restrictions on their license. Those restrictions are designed to minimize distractions while new drivers learn how to drive on their own.

Under Oregon law, new drivers are provided with a provisional license, which restricts the number of passengers allowed in a vehicle — no passengers under 20 (unless family members) or driving between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m. for the first six months; no more than three passengers under 20 years old (unless family) or midnight to 5 a.m. driving (unless with a licensed adult) for the next six months.

According to Chad Davis Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) lieutenant, Sisters deputies run across drivers who are not obeying their provisional license.

“We commonly encounter new drivers on traffic stops for a variety of reasons, speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, using a cell phone while driving, etc.,” Davis reported. “When we make contact with the driver, we then notice passengers in their vehicle. Oftentimes, these traffic stops occur during the lunch hour or after school hours.

“When we see passengers in vehicles, we then look at the issuance date of the provisional driver’s license and determine if the driver was issued their license less than six months ago,” Lt. Davis continued. “At that point, we ask the driver who their passengers are and have found their passengers to be friends and not immediate family members. Most of the time, the drivers know they are violating their restrictions. Sometimes, drivers act like they don’t know what we are talking about.”

The restrictions of a provisional license are in place to protect the safety of young drivers, their friends, and the public.

“Getting a license is an exciting time and a new phase in all of our lives,” Lt. Davis acknowledged. “Our children are excited and their friends are excited, because they envision newfound freedom. That excitement can lead to driving faster than they should, distractions, and possibly end in a crash.”

In keeping with the DCSO preference for obtaining voluntary compliance with the law, deputies don’t come down hard on new drivers —but there can be consequences, especially if there is an accident.

“We use these traffic stops as an opportunity to educate the driver about their restrictions, and we have either called parents to come get their children or call a legal driver to come get the passenger(s) or allow the passengers to walk,” Lt. Davis said. “In two of the traffic stops where I have encountered this situation, one passenger was about a block from their home, so they decided to walk home. In another instance, the traffic stop occurred in the high school parking lot, so they decided to call a parent to come pick them up.

“We commonly issue warnings for these drivers violating their restrictions and often call parents to make sure they know their child has been driving outside their restrictions. We have issued citations as well, usually for repeat offenders.”

Lt. Davis wants parents to be involved and keep an eye on the new drivers in their household.

“Know who your kids are hanging out with,” he said. “Parents need to ask questions: Where did you go to lunch today? Did anyone ride with you? Know if your kids are riding with another young driver who is within their first six months of having their license.

“Set a calendar reminder for six months and a day from the issuance date of their child’s license, and then decide if it’s time for their child to take on the responsibility of having passengers. Ultimately, when their child transports others in their vehicle they could be civilly liable if their child is violating the restrictions on their license and their passengers get hurt or killed in a crash.”

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Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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