Special Categories of Drivers

Young drivers

Young woman fined for using mobile phone while driving

Many countries have stricter laws for young drivers or drivers with provisional licenses. This is because these drivers are more likely to be involved in an accident than experienced drivers. They are more vulnerable to distraction due to their inexperience. Currently, a number of countries have a total ban on the use of mobile telephones by young drivers. As of December 2013, this is the case in the U.S. (37 states + DC ) and Australia (5 states). In the U.S. this legislation is expanding – in March 2011 this legislation existed in only 21 states and DC, in February 2012 in 30 states. Similar legislation is being considered in the U.K. (October 2013).


In many countries, this legislation is considered difficult to enforce, as it is difficult for police to assess the age of a driver on the road. In some cases (e.g. Australia), this is addressed by the use of special plates to identify novice drivers. 


 Legislation of this type can be compared to rules governing alcohol consumption for young drivers. Blood alcohol limits vary widely worldwide, from zero tolerance to a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08% (80mg/100mL). In a large number of countries where limited consumption of alcohol is permitted for drivers, lower limits have been set for younger or provisional drivers.  In Israel, for example, where the general BAC limit is 50mg/100mL, for young, new and professional drivers the limit is 10mg/100mL. Correct to September 2013, the U.S., Croatia, Cuba, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Serbia and Slovenia have zero tolerance for alcohol for drivers under 21 (as well as zero tolerance or lower tolerance for commercial drivers). In Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg and The Netherlands, novice drivers are permitted a BAC of 0.02% compared with around 0.05% for drivers with a few years of experience.


Public Transport and Truck Drivers

BusPublic transport and truck drivers carry large numbers of passengers and goods. As a result, their actions have greater potential consequences for the public good. Research has also shown that high mileage commercial drivers have an accident and casualty rate that is much higher than for private drivers (including an adjustment for mileage). One may expect that as a result, stricter laws may be applied to these drivers. In most countries public transport and goods drivers are covered by the same legislation as private drivers.


In the U.S., a number of states have enacted stricter regulation on the use of cell phones and other hand held devices for bus, truck and train drivers:

  • As of December 2013, 20 U.S. states and D.C. prohibit cell phone use entirely for school bus drivers.
  • The Federal Railroad Administration banned the use of cell phones and other electronic devices for all on-duty train crew members if it interferes with that employee’s or another employee’s performance of safety-related duties. This means  while the train is moving, a member of the crew is on the platform, or any railroad employee is assisting in the preparation of the train for movement.
  • There is a federal ban on hand held cell phones for all commercial motor vehicles engaged in interstate commerce and drivers operating a vehicle transporting hazardous materials. Interaction with a phone by such drivers is limited to touching a single button – whether on the phone, earpiece, steering wheel or instrument panel – to initiate, answer or terminate a call. 


It should be noted that a number of countries have banned cell phone use for all drivers (Japan, New Delhi, Portugal), which would also apply to commercial drivers. Similarly, in many Australian states the rules governing private drivers are similar to those covered by the U.S. federal ban on hand held cell phones.


Some countries have harsher penalties for public transport and goods drivers that break laws governing mobile phone use:

  • U.K.: Drivers of buses or goods vehicles caught using a hand-held phone face a penalty of up to £2,500, compared with £1,000 for private drivers. Both groups of drivers can be disqualified from driving for this act (as of January, 2014).
  • Australia (NSW): The inappropriate use of a mobile phone while driving a bus or coach is considered a serious breach of safety which may merit suspension or possible cancellation of the driver's license to drive such vehicles.


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