Parents support driver's license changesA recent survey of North Dakota parents found that while many believe bad weather is a top risk for teen drivers, a slim majority support stretching the permit period to one year, which would ensure teens experience winter driving before getting their license.
By: Mike Nowatzki , The Forum
A recent survey of North Dakota parents found that while many believe bad weather is a top risk for teen drivers, a slim majority support stretching the permit period to one year, which would ensure teens experience winter driving before getting their license.
The phone survey of almost 1,000 parents was conducted from September to November at the request of the North Dakota Coalition for Graduated Driver Licensing, which wants the Legislature to revamp the state’s licensing requirements next year.
The Center for the Study of Young Drivers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, which developed the survey with funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also found an overwhelming majority of parents – 95 percent – support a ban prohibiting teens from texting while driving.
Center Director Rob Foss said extensive media attention to the issue in the past year likely influenced the survey’s outcome.
“You almost never see 95 percent of a population agreeing on anything,” he said.
Surveyors asked several questions related to issues central to a graduated driver’s license system. Currently, North Dakota is the only state with no provisions of a GDL system.
The coalition’s proposal would require a one-year permit phase and a minimum six-month intermediate license phase during which 15-year-olds could drive unsupervised except from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. and couldn’t have more than one teen passenger in the car without an adult present. Teens would still be able to get a permit at 14.
Of the parents surveyed, 52 percent agreed the state should lengthen the permit period from six months to 12 months, while 44 percent disagreed, and 4 percent said they didn’t know.
“It was a pretty even split,” Foss said.
Support for the change was stronger among parents in urban counties (58 percent) than among those from more rural counties (45 percent).
Among the survey’s other findings:
Eighty-six percent of parents believe teens should be at least 16 before they’re allowed to drive without any limits on night driving or passengers.
Forty-four percent said the youngest age at which teens should be allowed to get a learner permit is 14, while 38 percent said 15, and 17 percent said 16.
Eighty percent agreed North Dakota should limit newly licensed teen drivers to no more than one teen passenger, not counting family members.
Fifty-eight percent agreed the state should limit driving after a certain time of night for new teen drivers; 38 percent said no, and 4 percent didn’t know.
In addition to the 95 percent of parents who support a texting ban, 85 percent also support banning teens from talking on the phone while driving.
Coalition member Gene LaDoucer of AAA North Dakota said it’s important for the group to know if its GDL bill meets the expectations of the state’s parents.
Carma Hanson, a coalition member and coordinator of Safe Kids Grand Forks, said parents often look to the law to reflect safe behavior.
“Our current law falls short of that and should be enhanced to reflect ‘best practices’ as proven in other parts of the country,” she stated in an e-mail.
The incidence of crashes among 14- to 17-year-old drivers is 167 percent higher than for drivers age 25 to 34, and 14-year-old drivers are three times more likely to die or be disabled in an injury crash than 17-year-old drivers, according to the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute in Fargo.
When parents were surveyed about what driving conditions or situations they believe are particularly risky for teen drivers, about 23 percent said bad weather conditions, just behind cell phones and driving with passengers.
Foss noted state law allows teen drivers to get a permit in the spring and their license six months later, before the snow flies.
“That’s one of the reasons a longer permit is needed, so that kids can have practice driving in these lousy conditions while mom or dad’s sitting there,” he said.
The survey interviews were conducted by the ETC Institute, a market research firm in Olathe, Kan.
Interviewers called randomly selected phone numbers for households likely to contain a teenager and asked to speak to the parent of a 15- or 16-year-old and then narrowed it down to the adult most familiar with the teen’s initial driving experience.
A total of 952 parents were interviewed in 49 of the state’s 53 counties.
The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.