Ohio’s teen drivers should spend more time training behind the wheel, in all seasons, before they’re granted their first license, according to safety experts and state lawmakers.
The number one reason teen drivers crash is inexperience and auto accidents are the number one cause of teen fatalities, said Kimberly Schwind of AAA, who called it “epidemic” on the roadways.
As part of Teen Driver Safety week Oct. 21-27, lawmakers and safety advocates are making another push for House Bill 293, which would require 12 months of training and a 10 p.m. curfew for young drivers.
If it becomes law, teens wouldn’t be eligible for their first license until age 16.5 — six months older than allowed under current law. Teens with their first license would be required to have adult supervision for driving after 10 p.m. — the current law requires supervision after midnight. Exceptions would be maintained for kids traveling for school, work or religious activities.
While some may see the additional restriction as an inconvenience, Stacy Schlotterback of suburban Columbus has a message: “I’m here to tell you that the inconvenience is nothing compared to the pain of living without your child.”
Schlotterback’s 17-year-old son Gavin and his girlfriend, Hunter, were killed July 27, 2017, when Gavin went off the road, over-corrected and was hit by an oncoming vehicle, she said.
Schlotterback and another parent, Brock Dietrich, appeared at a press conference Thursday to ask legislative leaders to pass HB293. Dietrich’s 17-year-old daughter Sydnee Williams died five years ago when she lost control of her car.
The bill has support from insurance companies, police organizations and the Ohio PTA. The bill cleared a House committee in February, was slated for a possible floor vote in April but got sidelined when then House speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, abruptly resigned, Schwind said.
Now, passing the legislation faces a tight deadline. Any bills that don’t make it through both the House and Senate by the end of December die and would have to be re-introduced in the new legislative session that starts in January. Lawmakers are not expected to return to Columbus until after Election Day.
On top of that, lawmakers are generally opposed to increasing traffic regulations and are more likely to reduce restrictions. For example, lawmakers took steps to eliminate the use of red light traffic cameras, increased the speed limit to 70 miles per hour on most highways in 2013 and limited police power to enforce the texting while driving ban.
“It, frankly, is an uphill challenge for us,” said state Rep. Gary Scherer, R-Circleville, the bill sponsor.
House Majority Leader Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, a vocal opponent of red light cameras, wrote in an email last week that he opposes HB293.
“We have now been though at least two prior ‘young driver protection bills,’ each of which was touted as the harbinger of successfully improving teen driving habits, and each of which imposed greater and greater constraints on freedom of travel,” Seitz wrote. “The latest iteration is yet another national nanny state measure whose impacts on teen job opportunities, attendance and participation in school extracurricular activities, and carpooling to save fuel more than counterbalance the safety improvements that supporters see by further restricting teen driving.”