Teens may see major changes to driving laws in Ohio

4:17 p.m Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 Politics
Teens may see major changes to driving laws in Ohio. Getty Images

Teens getting their first driver’s license may face more training requirements, delays and driving restrictions, if a new bill pending in the Ohio House becomes law.

The legislation, which is supported by police, insurance and public health groups, contains elements that are sure to be popular with parents but other parts may be seen as a hassle for parents and teens alike.

Here is what House Bill 293 calls for:

• Lengthen the temporary instruction permit phase to 12 months, up from six months.

• Delay issuance of the first license to 16 1/2 years of age.

• Prohibit newly licensed teens from driving without parental supervision between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Currently, the restricted hours start at midnight for those who have held a license for less than a year and 1 a.m. for those licensed for more than a year.

• Set a $5 application fee for driver’s license or renewal for anyone under 21. Current fees range from $2.25 to $7.25, depending on the young driver’s age.

Other requirements aren’t changed by the bill, such as taking a driver’s training course, acquiring at least 50 hours of driving experience, and passing both written and road tests. Teens would still be allowed to drive solo after hours if they have documentation showing they’re traveling for school, work or church activities.

State Rep. Gary Scherer, R-Circleville, who is sponsoring the bill, said 75 percent of teen crashes happen between 9 p.m. and midnight.

Nationwide, 99,000 teen drivers were injured in vehicle traffic crashes and 1,972 teen drivers were involved in fatal crashes in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Teen drivers have a higher rate of fatal crashes, mainly because of their immaturity, lack of skills and lack of experience. They speed, they make mistakes, and they get distracted easily — especially if their friends are in the car,” NHTSA said in a written release.

In Ohio between 2014 and 2016, teen drivers were involved in 131,959 traffic crashes — about 15 percent of all accidents, even though they make up less than 5 percent of licensed drivers, according to Ohio Highway Patrol and Ohio BMV data.

All 50 states have graduated driver licenses. Ohio started introducing elements of the graduated license in the late 90s and has applied more restrictions on teens since then, including a ban on using cell phones and a limit of one non-family passenger when driving without parental supervision for any driver under 18.

The legislation is supported by insurance companies, the Ohio Parent Teachers Association, the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police and others who say teens need more supervised driving experience for the safety of themselves, their passengers and other motorists on the roads. Lengthening the permit phase to a full year would ensure that every new teen driver has a chance to practice in all weather conditions.

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