Many kids look forward to their 16th birthday not only for the cake, but because that means they are only one month away from getting their driver’s license. If one state senator gets his way, however, that milestone will have to be delayed an additional five months.
The Indiana General Assembly is considering a bill that would restrict teen drivers in many ways beginning Jan. 1. First, it would raise the minimum age for a learner’s permit to 15½ and delay a driver’s license to 16½. It also would prohibit a driver under age 18 from operating a motor vehicle while using a telecommunications device (a.k.a. a cellphone) except for making a 911 emergency call, and from carrying passengers under age 25 for the first 180 days after being licensed.
And that’s not all -- the bill also would require teens to have 50 hours of supervised practice, including 10 hours at night, before getting a license.
State Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, sponsored Senate Bill 16 after serving last summer on an interim study committee for learner’s permits and graduated driver’s licenses. Holdman hopes that these new prerequisites will help decrease the number of teen-involved crashes. He noted that other states that have these restrictions on teens have had a 40 percent decrease in deaths and lifelong incapacitating injuries due to crashes.
In addition, Holdman said that cell phone use has been proven to increase the likelihood of crashes. “The research also shows the reaction time of those that are using the cell phone is actually the same as that of a .08 [blood-alcohol percentage] drunk driver,” he said.
The bill has passed the Senate and will be voted on in the House on Wednesday, April 1.
A quick poll of Y-Press members found most were in agreement with the bill.