What happens when someone causes a wreck and doesn’t have a valid driver’s license?
A driver must have a valid license to operate a motor vehicle. Driving without a license or with a suspended or revoked license is an obvious safety danger. Cars don’t drive themselves. Anyone who drives needs proper training and experience before getting behind the wheel. That is why Texas DPS requires extensive training and testing before issuing a person a license to drive on our roads.
Unfortunately, there are people who break the law and drive without a proper license or on a suspended or revoked license. Let’s look at the types of licenses and show how we might use these rules to help our clients when a person negligently causes a crash because of no license, a license violation or because of a suspended or revoked license.
Teenage Drivers: Learner and Provisional Licenses
Texas DPS tells us that teenagers and young adults have the highest crash rates of all drivers. Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for teens in the United States. Teens make up only 6.5 percent of the motoring public; however, teens account for 13 percent of fatal crashes in the United States. If you are involved in an accident with a teen driver, a good personal injury will know the license requirements for teen drivers in order to strictly enforce the rules.
Because of the heightened risk of injury and death posed by teenage drivers, Texas has enacted a graduated driver’s license program (GDL). The GDL program consists of two phases. Phase One is applicable to learner licenses. Phase Two applies to provisional licenses. All applicants must pass a driving exam conducted at the driver license office or other authorized facility to receive a learner or provisional license.
Phase One: Learner License: A learner license allows a student driver to practice while accompanied by another licensed driver. The licensed driver must be at least 21 years old with at least one year of driving experience. The licensed driver must sit in the front passenger seat and cannot be intoxicated, asleep or engaging in other activities that prevents the person from assisting the student driver. The student driver must be between at least 15 but no more than 18 years of age. Applicants for a learner license (or in some cases hardship licenses) must hold a valid learner license for a minimum of six months prior to the issuance of a provisional license.
Phase Two: Provisional License. Phase Two restricts the driving privileges of drivers under age 18 who receive a provisional license. A provisional license is issued to teens 16 to 18 years of age. The license will be marked PROVISIONAL. During Phase Two, the driver is not allowed to drive a motor vehicle:
- With more than one passenger in the vehicle under the age of 21 who is not a family member
- Between midnight and 5:00 a.m. subject to exceptions for work, school activities and medical emergencies.
Provisional drivers are prohibited from using a wireless communication device like a cell phone except in emergency situations.
To receive a provisional driver’s license, the driver must be at least 16 but not more than 18 years of age; successfully complete a driver’s education class; and have held a valid learner or hardship license for at least six months.
You can imagine all of the ways in which a teen driver might violate these licensing requirements. For instance, if you are involved in an accident with a teenage driver, check to see who is in the car with them at the time of the crash. If the driver has a provisional license and the driver’s “crew” is in the car, you have a ton of ammunition to use against the driver and the insurance company when it comes time to negotiate a settlement.
Our firm recently had the opportunity to enforce these rules of the road against a local teenager and her parents. The girl, a high school sophomore, drove her parent’s vehicle to school alone. Her license was marked with Restriction B which meant that she was required to be accompanied by a licensed driver 21 years of age or older in the front seat. The inexperienced sophomore negligently crashed into our client, a local mother who was taxiing her own children to school. The teen fled the scene. We were able to successfully sue the girl for causing the accident and for driving in violation of her learner license restrictions. We were also able to successfully sue the parents of the girl for negligently entrusting their vehicle to their daughter when they knew that she only had a learner permit and needed to be accompanied by an adult when driving.
Class C License
Class C is the most common type of license issued by DPS. A Class C license holder is allowed to drive:
- a vehicle or combination of vehicles (for example, a truck and travel trailer) that is not included in Class A or Class B (see below); and
- A single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of less than 26,001 lbs. towing a trailer not to exceed 10,000 lbs. GVWR or a farm trailer with a GVWR that does not exceed 20,000 lbs.
In simpler terms, a person only needs a Class C driver license if they are driving a personal car or truck. They are allowed to pull a personal trailer or camper that does not reach the weight restrictions. If you are a “normal driver” driving a “normal vehicle” chances are you have a Class C license. If you are involved in an accident with one of these normal vehicles, you should ensure that the driver has a valid Class C license.
A Class C license does not permit a driver to drive a motorcycle.
Class M License
A Class M license allows a driver to operate a motorcycle or a moped. In order to obtain a Class M license, a person must successfully pass a motorcycle operator training course approved by DPS. One may not drive a motorcycle or moped without a valid Class M license. If you are involved in an accident with a motorcycle, the first order of business is to determine if the driver has a Class M license.
Class A and B Licenses
A Class A license permits a driver to drive:
- Any vehicle or combination of vehicles (e.g. trailer) described under Class B or C; and
- A vehicle or combination of vehicles with a GVWR of 26,0001 lbs or more, provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) towed is in excess of 10,000 lbs.
A Class B driver license permits a person to drive:
- Any vehicle included in Class C;
- A single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs. or more and any such towing either a vehicle with a GVWR that does not exceed 10,000 lbs. or a farm trailer with a GVWR that does not exceed 20,000 lbs.
CDL (Commercial Driver License)
A person is required to have a commercial driver license (CDL) if the person operates a motor vehicle: with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more. A CDL is also required to transport quantities of hazardous materials that requires warning placards (signs). Further, a CDL is required to drive a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers including the driver.
Truck drivers who drive 18 wheelers are required to possess a CDL. Bus drivers are also required to carry a CDL. If you are involved in an accident with a larger vehicle, it is important to know whether the driver is required to carry a CDL and whether that driver in fact has met all of the requirements necessary to qualify and maintain their CDL. Knowing the CDL license requirements will provide you invaluable assistance in your subsequent personal injury claim. At Harmonson Law Firm, we carry a copy of the Texas Commercial Vehicle Drivers Handbook on our desks and study it religiously when it comes to enforcing the rules of the road against negligent CDL drivers.
Driving without corrective lenses is also a cause of dangerous accidents in Texas. A vision test will be administered when a person applies for a driver’s license. Depending on the results of the test, the person may be required to wear corrective lenses while driving. A good personal injury lawyer will always check to determine if the at fault driver was required to drive with corrective lenses and whether, in fact, the person wore those lenses at the time of the crash. From experience, we know that the value of your claim will increase if the at fault driver broke this simple safety rule.
The following is a list of common restrictions that may appear on a driver’s license:
A: With corrective lenses
B: A licensed driver 21 years of age or older must be in the front seat
C: Daytime only
D: Not to exceed 45 MPH
E: No expressway driving
F: Must hold valid learners permit until (date)
I M/C: Not to exceed 250 cc
J: Licensed M/C Operator age 21 or over in sight
L: Vehicle w/o air breaks – applies to vehicles requiring CDL
M: CDL Intrastate Commerce only
N: Ignition interlock required
O: Occupational license
P: Stated on License
Q: Licensed Operator in Front Seat (LOFS) 21 or over vehicle above Class B
R: LOFS 21 or over vehicle above Class C
S: Outside mirror or hearing aid
T: Automatic transmission
U: Applicable prosthetic devices
V: Applicable vehicle devices
W: Power steering
Suspensions and Revocations
Because driving is a privilege and not a right, DPS has the right to suspend or revoke a license. When a driver abuses the privilege, the driver may have his license suspended or revoked. One of the first investigations we undertake for our injured client is to receive a certified copy of the at fault driver’s driving record. The driving record will show us other similar accidents. It will show prior violations and the disposition of those violations. The driving record will also tell us whether the at fault driver’s license has ever been or is currently suspended or revoked. We use this ammunition in all sorts of ways in the subsequent lawsuit against the at fault driver.
Common reasons why a driver may have his or her license suspended or revoked include:
- DWI or Drug Offenses
- Failure to Stop and Render Aid
- Involuntary Manslaughter
- Driving with an Invalid License
- Driving With Fake ID
- Racing / Reckless Driving
- Repeated Violations of Traffic Laws
- Fleeing from a Law Enforcement Officer
- Failing to Stop for a School Bus
- Family Code Violations
- Health and Safety Code Violations
If we are able to determine through discovery that the at fault driver was driving with a suspended or revoked license, the value of the case is significantly increased.
The lawyers at Harmonson Law Firm only represent people who are seriously injured and the families of those who have died because of careless drivers. If you have questions about the driver’s license requirements and suspect that the at fault driver was either unlicensed or in violation of a license restrictions, please give a call for a free consultation. Our phone number is (915) 228-4140. Our lawyers have licenses in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.