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Heed driving restrictions for workers ages 16, 17

November 16, 2010

Teen-age workers can be an ambitious and cost effective source to perform various summertime roles at dealerships, but there are plenty of regulations to adhere to, especially for teens who drive in the course of work.

According to the federal 1998 Drive for Teen Employment Act—an ironic name, for the act effectively limits teen driving—17-year-olds may engage in limited driving on public roads and 16-year-olds may drive only on private property, such as dealership lots, while working. The Illinois graduated licensing system imposes other restrictions.

Employers should consider specifics of both measures before allowing a teen to drive in the course of work. A 17-year-old must:

• hold a valid driver’s license;
• have completed a state-approved driver education course;
• be instructed that seat belts must be worn; (It’s wise to have them sign a statement to this effect upon hire.)
• have no moving violations on record when hired.

Also, the vehicle a 17-year-old drives neither may weigh more than 6,000 pounds gross vehicle weight nor be used for towing. All driving is limited to daylight hours. Supervisors must ensure that there is ample time for 17-year-olds to complete any work trip during daylight.

Also, 17-year-olds may not drive in excess of one-third of one workday and one-fifth of a workweek.

Vehicle occupancy is limited to three passengers, and the transport of people who are not coworkers is limited to two trips a day. Licensed 16-year-olds may not drive on public roads while on the job.

A violation of the Drive for Teen Employment Act is subject to a $10,000 fine.

Many states, including Illinois, have invoked graduated licensing laws for teens amid rising concerns that the fatality rate for licensed 16-year-old drivers is double the rate for 17-year-olds and four times the rate for all drivers.

In Illinois, during the driver’s first year of licensing, or until the driver is age 18, whichever occurs first, the number of passengers is limited to one person under age 20, unless the additional passenger(s) is a sibling, step-sibling, child, or step-child of the driver.

After this period, the number of passengers is limited to one in the front seat and the number of safety belts in the back seat.

Cell phone use while driving is prohibited by drivers under 19 except in the case of an emergency to contact a law enforcement agency, health care provider or emergency services agency.

On-the-job driving by employees 21 and older is not regulated.