ND House approves stricter rules for teenage drivers
BISMARCK -- The North Dakota House has approved a bill that will mean changes for teen drivers. House Bill 1256 requires teen drivers to have a permit for at least 12 months if they are between ages 14 and 15 1/2 instead of the six months require...
BISMARCK -- The North Dakota House has approved a bill that will mean changes for teen drivers.
House Bill 1256 requires teen drivers to have a permit for at least 12 months if they are between ages 14 and 15 1/2 instead of the six months required now. If they are 15 1/2 or older, they would need a permit for six months before receiving a driver's license.
The bill requires drivers with the yearlong permit to have a minimum of 50 hours of supervised driving experience. This would include night driving; driving on gravel, dirt or aggregate surface road; driving in both rural and urban conditions; and winter driving conditions.
Licensed drivers younger than 16 couldn't operate a motor vehicle between 9 p.m. or sunset -- whichever is later -- and 5 a.m.
They could if an adult is in the front seat or if the teen is driving directly to or from work, an official school activity or a religious activity.
The bill also bans all drivers younger than 18 from using electronic communications devices unless in an emergency situation.
The bill would apply to permits and licenses issued after Jan. 1.
The approved bill differs from the original graduated driver's license version after the House Transportation Committee determined the revised version had better odds of passing.
Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, said North Dakota is "way behind the curve" with regulations on teen driving and said the bill moves the state in the right direction.
The bill prompted several questions from legislators trying to understand the terms of the bill.
Rep. Craig Headland, R-Montpelier, pointed to the provision that allows use of a global positioning system. He asked how law enforcement was going to determine if a teen was using a smart phone to text or as a GPS.
He also said it's the responsibility of parents to teach their kids to drive.
"How much further are we going to go in this assembly to erode parental responsibility?" Headland asked.
House Majority Leader Al Carlson of Fargo asked who would determine if teen drivers meet the requirements of driving in winter and on gravel roads.
Ruby said there isn't a way to verify that. The goal is to get parents more involved and make sure their kids drive in a variety of conditions.
He said extending the time a young driver has a permit should help cover a variety of driving situations.
Rep. Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck, encouraged legislators to approve the bill. Nathe, a funeral director, said he's tired of conducting funerals for young drivers and victims and seeing the lifetime of pain. He said the bill will save lives.
Rep. RaeAnn Kelsch, R-Mandan, said change is hard, and the bill a good compromise.
The House approved the bill on a 71-22 vote. The bill now moves to the Senate.
After the vote, Gene LaDoucer of AAA North Dakota said few teens will benefit from the approved bill.
"While the changes will improve safety for teens who obtain their learner's permit at age 14, very few teens actually get their permit that young, less than 10 percent," he said.
The bill is a step in the right direction, but more work is necessary to ensure an effective graduated licensing system is put into place, LaDoucer said.
Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.