N.D., Minnesota still have miles to go on teen driver licensingNorth Dakota and Minnesota's teen-driver licensing law fall short of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's lifesaving ideal.
By: Tom Dennis for the Herald, Grand Forks Herald
It’s a big change in North Dakota: Fourteen-year-olds still can get their learner’s permit, but now they have to drive under supervision for a full year before they can get their driver’s license.
The state Legislature made that change last year — and it’s a welcome one.
So, it’s probably too early to start calling for tightening the law even more.
But it’s not too early to start thinking about it. Or to start compiling numbers for use in Legislatures to come.
If North Dakota enacted all five components of toughest teen-driver laws in America, the state could cut its teen driving deaths by more than half, a Herald story reported.
Among the 50 states, only South Dakota has more distance between its current laws and the teen-driving ideal. Fully embracing that ideal could cut teen driving deaths in South Dakota by more than 60 percent, the study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found.
In North Dakota, similar action would reduce the teen driving death toll fall by 56 percent, as mentioned above.
All 48 other states have tougher teen-driver licensing rules than the Dakotas do, so they’d have less to gain by tightening their laws even further, the institute found.
Of course, “even the best states can do better,” says Anne McCartt, the institute’s senior vice president for research, in a press release.
“There’s room for improvement across the board, and states could see immediate reductions in fatal crashes and collision claims as soon as the beefed-up provisions are in force.”
In Minnesota, for example, fully enacting the institute’s recommendations could cut the number of fatal crashes by young teen drivers by 43 percent.
By the way, when the IIHS speaks, lawmakers and motorists should listen. That’s because the institute makes conclusions based on research, not guesswork.
Case in point: restrictions on texting and using cellphones while driving. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation himself has called for a nationwide ban on talking on a cellphone or texting while driving.
There’s just one problem: The bans wouldn’t work, the Insurance Institute has said in response.
So far, neither texting bans nor laws banning cellphone use while driving have reduced crashes, studies by the institute have found.
But graduated driver’s licenses have generated those reductions — and that’s the basis for the institute’s recommendations.
So, will the North Dakota Legislature raise the permit age to 16, hike the intermediate license age to 17, require at least 65 supervised practice hours, ban teen passengers when a young driver’s at the wheel and restrict teens’ night driving after 8 p.m., as the institute recommends?
Not yet, anyway, given the hard-fought nature of last-year’s more moderate changes. But parents should keep the list and statistics handy. That’s because as safety improves in other states, the issue sooner or later will surface again.
— Tom Dennis for the Herald