Teen motorists get new restrictions with Ohio bill

Janet N. Aronica

Teen drivers in Ohio could face tougher restrictions with the passage of a new bill. Ohio House Bill 343, proposed by Rep. Tom Raga, would strengthen laws by increasing the age when teens get their permits from 15-and-a-half to 16. It would also add a passenger restriction and midnight driving curfew.

Supporters say the bill is needed because inexperienced adolescent drivers are a danger to themselves and others.

“From 1995 to 2004, 1,173 people died in a crash involving a teen driving,” said Brian Newbacher, director of Public Affairs for AAA in Independence. Newbacher is working with the Ohio Teen Driving Coalition to help get the bill passed.

Newbacher points to research to validate the need for the new rules like the passenger restriction, which allows only one non-family member to ride with a teen driver.

“Teen drivers are twice as likely to get in a crash when they have a passenger, and that risk escalates to three times when they have two or more passengers,” he said. “It (the passenger restriction) will be an inconvenience, but it will be tolerated and the benefits greatly outweigh the inconvenience, because the fatalities will go down.”

“It’s not that somebody has decided to punish anyone.

Safety-minded organizations such as AAA and the Ohio Safety Patrol have studied the data of what other states have done.”

Other states have established laws similar to HB343. Intermediate licensing, graduated licensing, or junior licensing are common terms used to describe these programs.

In New York, a 9 p.m. curfew for drivers under 18 can be the biggest hassle of the graduated licensing system.

“The only real restriction I had was with driving after 9 p.m.,” said Stephanie Flattery, freshman fashion merchandising major. “If you don’t take Driver’s Ed, you can’t drive after nine, and it really restricted what you could do – at least for me it did.”

Flattery said her parents had the ultimate authority when it came to her driving.

“My parents wouldn’t let me drive out of town after nine,” she said. “Around town they were OK with it because mostly it was just from friends’ houses. They were a lot more lenient than other parents I knew.”

In Pennsylvania, drivers receive a junior license initially, and move up to the senior license when they turn 18. Prior to getting a license, motorists must acquire 50 hours of supervised practice driving. Junior drivers also have to abide by an 11 p.m. curfew.

Freshman exploratory major Abbey Linville was able to avoid some of the Pennsylvania restrictions because she waited until senior year to get her permit.

“I was scared of driving because I was afraid I was going to hit a child. I didn’t think I was ready to handle obstacles and stuff,” Linville said. “Looking back, I wish I had done it earlier because it makes you more independent and it makes you grow up faster.”

Linville says she doesn’t think making teens wait is a bad thing.

“Six months isn’t going to make that much of a difference,” Linville said. “It’s six months they can dedicate to actually learning the rules. I still have friends who don’t know that you have to wait to turn left at lights and it’s really scary. I don’t necessarily find it unfair for the kids to wait an extra six months.”

Contact general assignment reporter Janet N. Aronica at [email protected].