Laws for teen drivers could change

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Some legislators in Indiana are looking to change the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) law that pertains to new teen drivers.

Insurance Associations and even the AAA Hoosier motor Club is jumping on board the movement to improve the law and hopeful reduce the fatality rate among teens.

Motor vehicle crashes are still the leading cause of death for young drivers age 15 to 20 and the highest fatality rate is among 16-year-old drivers.

According to AAA both nationally and in Indiana, nearly two of every three people killed in teen-driver crashes are people other than the teen driver.

GDL is a three-stage licensing process that allows beginning drivers to get initial driving experience under low-risk conditions.

It then introduces them to more complex driving situations over a period of time.

An interim study committee on learner's permits and graduated driver's licenses was formed earlier this year.

At a recent meeting at the Legislative Services Agency, Indianapolis, Senators from around the state met to discuss a version of House Bill 112-2008 that concerns the GDL bill.

Judge Paul Mathias of the Indiana court of Appeals testified to the committee that he believes age is the most important factor in safe driving by newly licensed drivers.

He suggested a sticker placed on the vehicles of new drivers.

He also expressed concern about devices designed to be handheld that are mounted within a vehicle and then broadcast through the radio. This would include items like IPODs.

Robert Spolyar with State Farm Insurance testified that he believed there should be minimum holding periods for learner's permits.

"California had a significant reduction in crashes when its GDL bill became law," he said.

Some of the changes legislators and others would like to see include applicants younger than 18 to first be required to hold a learner's permit for 180 days and show evidence of a 50-hour driving log certified by a parent or guardian. Ten of those hours would be logged during nighttime hours.

The current law does not require practice driving at all.

AAA believes teens should be restricted to no passengers (unless accompanied by an adult) during the first 180 days of driving.

Statistics show the crash risk for teen drivers increases dramatically as the number of passengers increases. By adding one passenger, the crash risk doubles. With two passengers, the risk nearly triples and with three or more, the risk is five-fold says AAA.

The restriction of the use of cell phones and other handled electronic devices for drivers younger than 18 is also supported by AAA.

The current 2008 Legislation (HB1112) includes increasing the age for learner's permit (supervised driving only) from 15 years-of-age to 15 and 6 months with Driver's Education. It will remain at 16 years without Driver's Education.

Also, the permit holding time for a learner would go from two months to six months and a 50-hour log of supervised practice driving with either a licensed instructor or driver over the age of 25 would be required.

The age for a probationary license (unsupervised driving) would increase from age 16 and one month to age 16 and six months with Driver's Education and from 16 and six months to 17 years without Driver's Education.

Passenger restrictions would be increased. For 180 days no passengers would be allowed to ride with new drivers unless accompanied by an adult who is a licensed driver. This is an increase from the current 90-day restriction. Siblings and children of the driver are exempt.

Nighttime driving restrictions would also change. Curfew hours from 10 p.m.-5 a.m. for the first six months of driving with exemptions for work, school and church related activities were going into effect. Then, restrictions during curfew hours until age 18 would also have the same exemptions.

Use of cell phones and other handheld electronic devices while driving would be restricted until age 18.

HB1112 successfully passed the House and the Senate with overwhelming support early this year. The bill was then placed before Governor Mitch Daniels for approval, and he signed the bill into law on March third. Following that the Interim Study Committee was formed.

This committee will give our legislators a better opportunity to take a closer look at the issue and then provide recommendations for a bill next year.

AAA Hoosier Motor Club is asking members to fill out an opinion survey to help them define their legislative position. Visit to find out more about GDL.

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    What percentage of teen accidents occur after dark?

    -- Posted by tackleberry65 on Wed, Oct 29, 2008, at 1:20 PM
  • I am not opposed to restricting the young driver...but if you look at statistics, the older driver needs to be restricted as well. They have similar accident statistics.

    -- Posted by ExHoosier on Wed, Oct 29, 2008, at 5:21 PM
  • I think these are pretty good rules, but let's go back to this: Driver's Education in Greencastle is a joke. Not necessarily b/c of those who teach it, though this is part of it, but also b/c the class itself is ridiculous. I took Driver's Ed at GHS when I was in 15. I learned next to nothing about real driving, but I knew every traffic sign and whether or not I had to use a turn signal when exiting an alley. Putting a 16 year old behind the wheel of a 1,000 piece of metal with PROPER EDUCATION AND KNOWLEDGE should be a no brainer. My friends that did not take driver's ed were usually better driver's b/c they were taught to drive, not just about the logisitics.

    -- Posted by MsBehaving on Thu, Oct 30, 2008, at 9:42 AM
  • According to the National Institute of Health, teen drivers are three times as likely as drivers 20 and older to be involved in fatal crashes between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. and 16-year-olds die at night at twice the rate as in the daytime. It's harder to see at night, so it's harder to react quickly to obstacles. Inexperienced drivers are more vulnerable to making errors after dark.

    An article from Reader's Digest has the following statistics: Nearly half of teen car-crash deaths happen at night. Cell phone use increases the crash risk by 300%. Adding one passenger increases the fatal crash risk by 48%. A second passenger increases the fatality risk by 158%. 87% of teen deaths involve distracted drivers; radios rank as a top teen distraction. Nearly half of teens are sleep-deprived, and young drivers cause 55% of fatigue-related crashes. From 9p-6a teens are three times more likely to die in a crash than during the day.

    By far the most dangerous cohort on the road today is the new driver between the ages of 16 and 19. A state of Wisconsin report showed that in 2002 only six percent of all licensed drivers were between the ages of 16 and 19, yet they accounted for 16 percent of all drivers in crashes, about four times the accident rate of people older than 65.

    -- Posted by cloverlady on Thu, Oct 30, 2008, at 9:42 AM
  • MsBehaving - It is the resposibility of the driver's ed teaher to make sure the student knows the rules of the road. They are required by law to have the students behind the wheel for a minimum of 6 hrs. It is the responsibility of the parent to make sure the student has time behind the wheel to get the needed experience before getting their license.

    -- Posted by cloverlady on Thu, Oct 30, 2008, at 9:56 AM
  • To Cloverlady - I agree, the parents HAVE to be involved. However, and I'm not speaking for any other Driver's Ed program, but what I learned at GHS during my driver's education really didn't help me on the road. It was indeed my parents that taught me how to drive. If it hadn't been for them, I probably would have wrapped my car around a tree within the first year. So I think it's a joint effort. If my parents spend $250 on Driver's Ed for 4 weeks, they should expect me to know far more than I did after completion.

    -- Posted by MsBehaving on Thu, Oct 30, 2008, at 2:05 PM
  • To add to that, in this day and age you can never count on the parents. Unfortunate as that may be and as outraged as it makes many of us, it's a fact. So intead of reacting to another teenager-caused accident, we should be proactive in preventing them altogether. I knew when an S curve was approaching, but I wasn't ever taught how to control a car on black ice or rain in that S curve.

    -- Posted by MsBehaving on Thu, Oct 30, 2008, at 2:07 PM
  • There is a lot asked of driver's ed teachers. In order to teach driver's ed they must take two classes - one in classroom teaching and one in driving. They then are expected to teach this to their students in X amount of hours. Perhaps if the state of Indiana required more than a minimum of six hours behind the wheel for students that the students would have more hands on knowledge when completing the course. I commend any teacher who would willingly get in a car to teach teenagers how to drive in a few short hours.

    After driving for 33 years I took the Driver's Ed course (classroom only) at ISU last semester. It was a great refresher. After driving for many years things become automatic and you really don't think about what you are doing. It reminded me of what to do in certain driving conditions - what to do if a tire blows out, how to steer in a slide. The basics learned in driver's ed that you forget unless you have to use them.

    MsBehaving - you should have been taught what to do in those situations. It is basic. I'm sorry that you weren't.

    -- Posted by cloverlady on Fri, Oct 31, 2008, at 7:57 AM
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