Driving not so sweet for 16-year-olds

Deanna Stevens

For 16-year-olds, getting a driver’s license, or just knowing someone with one, is like a gateway to independence.

But, under a new law taking effect today, that gate will be locked, or at least closed for little bit longer.

Drivers younger than 17 years old in Ohio will no longer be able to drive with more than one other passenger who is not related to them, at least without a parent tagging along.

Leigha Huckoby, 15, is a freshman at Stow-Munroe Falls High School who is getting her temporary permit on Monday.

“I see the reasoning behind it,” Huckoby said about the law. “With the statistics they have, there’s a higher chance of an accident with more people in the car.

“People are probably going to break it anyway.”

Even though she’s not happy with the new rules, Huckoby said she won’t be one of those people breaking the law.

“I’d rather be able to drive at this age with only one person in the car than to not be able to drive at all,” Huckoby said. “Yeah I’d love to be able to have all my friends in the car, but I won’t break the law cause I am scared of being in trouble.”

Lt. James Cole said the new law wouldn’t burden the Kent Police Department because it’s not a “primary offense.”

Cole explained an officer can’t pull over anyone they suspect is under the age of 17 with more than one passenger. There has to be another reason that causes the officer to take action initially.

“It’s like the seat belt law,” Cole said.

Jim Scelza of Stow said he agrees with the law, especially because his daughter, Chelsea, will turn 16 years old this May.

Brimfield resident Yveonna Washington-Greer agrees with Scelza.

“It is absolutely fair and very appropriate,” Washington-Greer said. “Teenagers are distracted enough and they don’t take driving seriously enough.”

Roger Sidoti, Theodore Roosevelt High School principal, said the law will affect the way teens carpool to and from school.

“This law is so new that a lot of kids aren’t aware of the law yet,” Sidoti said. But, we are in a position where we have a captive audience, so it’s our responsibility to let the students know.”

Sidoti said there has not been an announcement about the law yet, but there will be something in the school’s branching out newsletter, which is sent home to the student’s parents.

He added that the high school is not equipped to enforce the changes, so a lot of the responsibility will fall on the parents.

Washington-Greer’s son, Adones, is also 15 years old and will be getting his temporary license in a few months. She said although she was looking forward to him sharing some of the chauffeuring duties, she has no problem going along for the ride for an extra year.

“That is a downfall to the law,” Washington-Greer said. “But I think that saving a life is more important.”

Sidoti added the students will get used to the new rules, but it will take time for everyone to adjust.

“Working for a safer environment in cars for our kids is very important,” Sidoti said. “But it’s going to take time.”

Also, if a person under the age of 17 gets into an accident within the first six months of having his or her license, he or she must be accompanied by a parent for another six months or until his or her 17th birthday.

Along with the one-passenger rule, 16-year-olds aren’t allowed to drive between midnight and 5 a.m. without a parent, except for emergency situations, or driving to or from a school activity or work.

Although, it may seem like 17 is the magic number to outgrow the restraints, it’s not. Seventeen-year-olds aren’t completely left out of the new restrictions.

They have the same after-hours time restraints, between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Contact public affairs reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected].