If you’re a teenager in Oklahoma, we’re certain you are looking forward to the freedom and opportunities available to you when you have a driver license. Before you get behind the wheel, there’s information you need to know. Much of this was probably covered in your driver ed classes, but a refresher never hurts.

Let’s start at the beginning …

Your Driver License in Oklahoma

Your first driver license will be part of our state’s graduated driver license program. Oklahoma has adopted a Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program as a means of giving teens increasing driving privileges and responsibilities as young drivers gain more experience. The goal is to reduce the number of teenage car crashes. A quarter of 16-year-old drivers either get into a car crash or receive a ticket of some kind in their first year of driving.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says GDL programs across the country have reduced teen crashes 10 to 30 percent on average by making sure teens gradually build up driving experience under lower-risk conditions as they mature and develop skills.

The Oklahoma GDL program begins with your learner permit, which you can obtain at the age of 15 ½ if you pass a written exam, a vision test, and have passed a driver education course. Without recognized driver education, you must be 16. A learner permit allows you to drive while accompanied by a licensed driver who is 21 or older.

At 16, if you have had a permit for at least six months and have had enough driving practice, you can apply for an intermediate license. You must attest on an affidavit to the fact that you have had at least 50 hours of driving practice, including 10 hours of night driving, accompanied by a driver who is 21 or older and who has been licensed for at least two years. You’ll also have to pass a driving test.

An intermediate license allows you to drive from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and for activities related to school, church or work, and any time that you are accompanied by a licensed driver who is 21 or older.

At 18, you are eligible for an unrestricted license if you have had an intermediate license for at least six months (or a year if you did not take driver ed) and have no traffic tickets on your record. You will have to pass a written test, vision exam, and a driving test. As the name indicates, you have no restrictions – other than general traffic law – once you have an unrestricted license.

Three Things to Remember:

  • Get a learner permit as soon as possible
  • Log your driving practice time
  • If you are convicted of a traffic violation while in the GDL program, your next step of eligibility is delayed six months.

Oklahoma Auto Insurance Requirements

In addition to holding a driver license, the vehicle that you drive must be insured. The car you are driving must also have a current license tag, registration, and title.

At the minimum, you must have 25/50/25 liability insurance coverage. This is $25,000 maximum coverage for bodily injury liability for one person injured in an accident, $50,000 maximum coverage for all bodily injury liability in a single accident, and $25,000 maximum coverage for property damage liability for one accident.

Liability coverage is for an accident in which you are at fault. Bodily injury coverage pays for injuries suffered by other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and bicyclists in an accident you cause. Property damage liability coverage pays for damage to someone else’s vehicle, fence, mailbox, house, or bicycle if you hit it.

If you get into an a collision in which there is any injury or property damage worth $300 or more and do not have the required liability insurance, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety will suspend your driver license and/or the license of the uninsured vehicle’s owner.

Additional insurance is not required. But liability coverage does not pay if you damage your own car or injure yourself in an accident. Collision insurance pays if you damage your car in an accident. If you have a new car that you are still paying for, the bank or another title holder financing your car loan will usually require you to have collision insurance until you pay off the loan.

Another type of coverage, uninsured motorist coverage (UM) pays you, members of your family who live with the policyholder, and occupants of your auto for personal injuries caused by an uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist or hit-and-run driver.

Three Things to Remember:

  • You must have at least 25/50/25 auto liability coverage in Oklahoma
  • Liability coverage does not pay for damage that you or a hit-and-run driver does to your vehicle
  • If an insurance payment is late, your insurance immediately lapses and you will not be covered for an accident.

Important OK Traffic Laws

It would not be possible to list all of Oklahoma’s traffic laws here. You probably have a general knowledge of many of them, such as those about obeying the speed limit, not crossing the solid yellow line of a no-passing zone, and yielding to traffic before making a left turn. Of course, being a teenager, you know it is illegal for you to drink alcohol, let alone drive a vehicle after drinking.

There a few traffic laws that you might overlook but should be aware of:

  • Seat belts: Every driver and front-seat passenger in Oklahoma must wear a properly adjusted and fastened shoulder and lap belt. The seat belt must be factory-installed and meet federal safety standards.
  • Child safety seats: If you have child younger than 6 years old in your car, they must be in an infant or child safety seat that meets U.S. Department of Transportation standards. Children age 6 through 12 must be in a car seat or wear a seat belt – no matter where they sit in the car. Most car seats sold today meet U.S. DOT standards. Look for a label that says so or get more information and assistance from the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
  • Cell phone and texting bans: If you hold an intermediate license, it is illegal for you to use a hand-held cell phone while driving in Oklahoma. As of November 2015, texting while driving in Oklahoma is illegal for all drivers. It is a primary offense, meaning an officer can pull over a texting motorist. You could be fined $100 if convicted.
  • School buses: You must stop for a school bus that is on the same road as you are and is flashing red lights and/or showing a red “STOP” sign, which means children are getting on or off the bus. Remain stopped until the bus starts moving, or the driver motions for you to proceed, or the red flashing lights go off and/or the sign is pulled back. You don’t have to stop for a bus in a loading zone next to a controlled-access highway where pedestrians are not allowed to cross the road.
  • Sharing the road: As a driver, you must watch for pedestrians and bicyclists. Pedestrians have the right of way in a crosswalk, whether it is marked or not. When passing a bicyclist, you are required to leave at least three feet between your car and the bicycle until you have passed it.
  • Motorcycle helmets: If you are under age 18, you are required to wear a DOT-approved helmet while operating or riding a motorcycle.
  • Work zones: if you encounter highway construction, you must slow down, be ready to stop, and obey signs and markings, or signals by workers. Failure to obey signs, markings or flag signals could lead to a fine of up $100 fine and/or up to 30 days in jail, plus liability for damage to property and injury if you cause an accident. Speeding fines, which may be as much as $384.90 in any case, are doubled in construction and maintenance zones when workers or equipment are present and in school zones.

If you are under the age of 18, any Oklahoma court is required to notify the Department of Public Safety of any drug or alcohol offense that you commit, including any crime, violation, infraction, traffic offense or other offense relating to:

  • The possession, use, sale, purchase, distribution, or consumption of beer or any beverage containing alcohol
  • Consuming, ingesting, inhaling, or injecting any controlled dangerous substance as defined by Oklahoma law.

When the court makes this notification, the Department of Public Safety is required to cancel or deny you a driver license for a period of time as recommended by the court or required by law. At the discretion of the court, your license could be suspended for a period of:

  • 6 months
  • 1 year
  • 2 years or until you turn 21, whichever period is longer.

Three Things to Remember:

  • Even something as simple as a speeding ticket can cost you hundreds of dollars – several hundred in some cases
  • In addition to the court’s penalties for traffic violations, your insurance premiums will increase significantly for certain violations or multiple violations
  • If you cause an accident and injure someone, you may be the object of a lawsuit seeking compensation for the injured person’s medical expenses, property damage and other losses.