Should the age to get a driving permit be 16?

An Illinois drivers license is displayed during a news conference at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2007. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman) ((AP Photo/Seth Perlman))

February 24, 2010 3:32:30 PM PST
A resolution Congress is considering may put the brakes on 15-year-old drivers using permits in Illinois. When should a teenager be allowed to get a driver's permit? Congress is considering legislation that makes teen driving laws tougher and push the age of a learner's permit to 16 nationwide, which is one year older than Illinois law, where 15-year-olds can get a permit

The number of deadly crashes involving teenage drivers has dropped dramatically in Illinois in the past two years.

What Illinois has accomplished has caught the attention of some in Congress- and many lawmakers now want to adopt many of the same rules nationally for teen drivers. However, there's one major difference-- the bill being debated in Washington would raise the learner's permit age to 16.

Rachel Jones, a sophomore at Lincoln Park High School, can't wait to get her driver's license when she turns sweet 16 this summer.

"It's pretty exciting, kind of gives me a little freedom at times," said Rachel Jones.

Rachel won't get her license on her actual birthday in July because of tougher laws Illinois put in place a couple of years ago that target teen drivers. She'll have a couple more months of parental supervision to complete.

In 2008, Illinois enacted a 9-month holding period, up from 3 months, for 15-year-olds with learner's permits and increased the hours of adult supervised driving to 50. Plus cell phones are banned until they turn 19.

"It's working perfectly fine because the teens have to go though a lot of hours to be behind the wheel," said Mayra Villegas, Nova Driving School.

Illinois now has some of the toughest teen driving requirements in the nation and after two years, the Secretary of States office says it has worked in dramatic fashion, cutting the number of fatal crashes involving teens by more than half.

With these kind of results, perhaps it's not surprising that Congress is now considering adopting many of the same rules. The STANDUP Act, as it's called, would require a six month holding period for learners permits, instead of 9 months. The rest of the rules pretty much mirror Illinois new standards.

Except for one -- it would raise the learners permit age up from 15 in Illinois and many other states -- up to 16. The Secretary of State's Office likes the idea of national standards but doesn't think raising the age is the key.

"We do believe the key is practice behind the wheel and experienced driving rather than the age per se," said Dave Druker, IL Secretary of State's Spokesperson.

Illinois' current rules:

    Learner Stage:
  • Permit at 15 years of age
  • 9 months of training, which includes 50 hours of driving, 10 of which must be at night.
    Intermediate Stage:
  • 16 years of age
  • Unsupervised driving is prohibited from 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 p.m. from Friday ? Saturday until 6 a.m.
  • For the first year, no more than one passenger younger than 20, excluding family members
    Full License Stage:
  • At 17, the passenger restriction is lifted.
  • At 18, the nighttime restriction is lifted.

The STANDUP Act

The STANDUP Act, which was introduced in April 2009, is now in front of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

    The three stages are:
  • LEARNER'S PERMIT STAGE: At 16, a teen can get a driving permit. This stage lasts for at least six months. The permit does not allow the use of cellular phones, except in emergencies, or driving at night.
  • INTERMEDIATE STAGE: An intermediate stage in effect until the driver attains age 18 or older that commences after expiration of the learner's permit stage, lasts at least six months, prohibits more than one non-familial passenger under age of 21 if there is no licensed driver age 21 or older present in the vehicle, prohibits nighttime driving, and prohibits the use of a cellular phone or other communications device in non-emergency situations
  • FULL LICENSE: A driver would also then have to meet any other requirements made by the secretary of state. Compare Illinois rules to other states

Read the HR 1895- STANDUP Act at opencongress.org.


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