I had the pleasure of addressing the Northfield School Board last week and we talked about the recent legislative session and concerns about education funding for next session. In addition, I fielded a question about the GDL (graduated driver licensing) bill that passed both the House and Senate this past session. We often talk about education but driver education rarely is part of that discussion. I have been a driver education instructor since 1982 and it is a topic that I am very familiar with. I still teach driver education every summer and during the school year when I am not in session.
“When parked uphill with a curb, turn your wheels left.” Let’s try to get within 12 inches of the curb.”
The GDL bill passed into law this past year will save the lives of teenagers in every corner of Minnesota. By putting this standard in law, we can give our young drivers six more months to attain the skills necessary to become more mature drivers, capable of driving responsibly. Specifically, the bill would require the following:
- For the first six months, only one passenger under the age of 20 (who is not a family member) would be allowed in the vehicle;
- For the second six months, up to three nonfamily passengers would be allowed in the vehicle;
- Hours of driving for provisional license holders (basically anyone under 18) would be restricted between midnight and 5 a.m., except to drive to work, school, or with a licensed driver over the age of 25.
“Watch out for the pedestrian up ahead! Next time, let’s brake a little sooner.”
This is welcome legislation. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for Minnesota teens. Drivers aged 16-17 with two or more passengers are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash. Sixty-two percent of teenage passenger deaths in the United States in 2006 occurred in vehicles driven by another teenager. Among deaths of passengers of all ages, 20 percent occurred when a teenager was driving. These grim statistics are never ending
I am always encouraging our young adults to get as much practice on the road as possible. I always find it interesting that parents will encourage and set aside hours of time for a child’s piano or violin lessons, or hundreds of hours to hockey and soccer practice, but very few hours with a child behind the wheel. Parents can all do a better job of practicing the most important skill a child can learn in the teenage years: driving on our streets and highways.
“Keep your eyes moving. Prepare for the unexpected.”
New laws will help keep our teens safer as they gain the necessary experience in those formative years and I will be out there driving your son or daughter this summer. Be patient with us. Obviously, legislatures and driver ed instructors can’t do it alone.