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Jeff Hou,15
(Izabella Robinson / photo illustration)
Jeff Hou,15
March 28, 2009
By Eric Chen, 16

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.

Among those in support:
Rachel Fogel, 14: When kids get their licenses, I don't think that many are fully responsible. I also think that it is a very good idea to ban the use of cell phones for teens, although I think it would be a better idea just to ban the use of cell phones in cars altogether.
Laura Cockman, 16: Personally, I think the bill is a great idea. Teen drivers are ridiculously unsafe as a whole. I would like it if the bill went so far as to push the driving age back to 18 years of age.
Max Gabovitch, 15: I think it would be hard for kids just ’cause they want to get their license, but it probably will cause less accidents, so it would probably end up being a good thing.
Among those in opposition:
Katie McDowell, 16: Honestly, I don't feel the need to wait six months after your 16th birthday. I don't really see how the extra five months of waiting all of a sudden will make kids better drivers. I also don't agree with only banning cell phones for teens. If you think about it, these days, kids are better at texting and using their cell phones than adults are.
Jake Thornburgh, 15: I disagree with moving the age to 16½. I fail to see how five extra months can save as many lives as advocates of the bill think.
* As of March 4, 2009 Senate bill 0016 is still in committee
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Missy Patterson, 16.
 Copyright 2009 Y-Press
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