How Do Joshua’s Law Changes Impact New Georgia Drivers?

New rules for teens seeking their Georgia driver’s licenses took effect on July 1. The new requirements include a minimum of 30 hours of classroom or online instruction and significant behind-the-wheel training time. Teens and their parents have a few options as to how best to complete the requirements.

Why are the Georgia Teen Driver’s License Requirements Changing?

Joshua’s Law itself isn’t new. The original law, which took effect in 2007, was named for Joshua Brown. Joshua was 17 when the car he was driving hydroplaned. Joshua was unable to regain control of the vehicle and crashed into a tree. Six days later, he died of injuries sustained in the crash.

Unfortunately, Joshua’s tragic accident wasn’t an isolated event. Each year, thousands of people around the country die in motor vehicle accidents involving teenage drivers. The risk is highest in the summer: the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is known as the “100 deadliest days for teen drivers.” During that period, an average of about seven people die each day in teen-driving accidents, including many teens.

Joshua’s father successfully pushed for a law that would help ensure that teen drivers had sufficient, high-quality training before receiving their licenses. It worked. Between the time the law took effect in 2007 and 2020, teen driver fatalities in Georgia dropped by 60%. Now, the added training requirements that have long applied to 16-year-old driver’s license applicants have been extended to all would-be Georgia drivers under the age of 18.

What are the New Requirements?

Georgia residents under the age of 18 who are applying for a Class D driver’s license must have completed one of the following combinations of classroom/online instruction and behind-the-wheel training:

  • 30 hours of classroom instruction through an approved provider, combined with six hours of behind-the-wheel training through the certified school and 40 hours of supervised driving with a parent or guardian
  • 30 hours of online instruction through an approved provider, combined with six hours of behind-the-wheel training through the certified school and 40 hours of supervised driving with a parent or guardian
  • 30 hours of classroom instruction through an approved provider combined with 40 hours of parent-taught behind-the-wheel training using the Parent/Teen Driving Guide
  • 30 hours of online instruction through an approved providers combined with 40 hours of parent-taught behind-the-wheel training using the Parent/Teen Driving Guide

Who is Responsible for a Teen Driving Accident?

Liability for an automobile accident typically stems from negligence. That’s true whether the driver is a teen or an adult. When the negligent driver is a minor, though, the situation may be a bit more complicated.

Most teen drivers are covered under their parents’ auto insurance policies. In that case, a claim involving a negligent teen driver will proceed similarly to any other negligence claim, since the insurance company will be responsible for any damages up to the policy limits. But, what if the teen is uninsured or underinsured?

Some states require an adult to accept financial responsibility for any accidents caused by a teen driver before the teen can be licensed. Georgia does not. Still, there are some circumstances under which parents may be responsible. For example:

  1. Malicious Acts: Georgia law makes parents responsible for damages caused by willful or malicious acts of their children. In the motor vehicle arena, this might apply if a teen angrily drove into another vehicle or through a neighbor’s garden. But, this liability is capped at $10,000, and it doesn’t apply to negligence.
  2. Family Purpose: A parent may be liable for injuries and property damage caused by a teen driver who was acting on behalf of the family at the time of the accident. This is similar to the liability of an employer for damages caused by an employee on the job. So, parents might not be liable for an accident a teen caused on the way to the movies with a friend. But, if the teen was driving her younger sister to Girl Scouts or running an errand to the grocery store for her mom, the parents might be responsible.
  3. Negligent Entrustment: Parents who allow a teen to drive the family car under inappropriate circumstances may be found to have acted negligently themselves. For example, if a teen has only driven in rural areas with little traffic and has no experience with navigating the interstate or heavy urban traffic, parents who allow the teenager to take the car into the heart of Atlanta at rush hour may be acting negligently and may be held responsible for any resulting harm.

An experienced Atlanta car accident attorney can be the best source of information about whether you may be entitled to compensation after an accident with a teen driver and who may be responsible.

Atlanta attorney ReShea Balams fights for maximum compensation for people who have been injured through someone else’s negligence, including victims of motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall injuries, medical malpractice and more. The Balams Firm offers free, no-obligation consultations so injury victims can gather the information they need to make good decisions in difficult times. You can schedule yours right now by calling 855-352-2727 or filling out the contact form on this page.

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ReShea Balams

ReShea Balams is an award winning attorney and the founder of The Balams Firm.  Prior to answering her true calling to represent families impacted by life-changes tragedies, ReShea gained invaluable experience and insight as an attorney for large insurance companies.  She is known for her record of exceptional results on behalf of clients, and is a zealous advocate for injury victims.

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