Tired of seeing underage drivers killed as a result of joyriding with their friends, Oklahoma State Rep. Danny Morgan announced legislation to create a new graduated driver’s license for teenagers. Morgan said he patterned the bill after similar measures that have been successful in other parts of the country.
“We’ve got to cut down the fatality and accident rates of youthful, inexperienced drivers,” said Morgan, D-Prague. “We’re trying to adopt the national model that other states have adopted. When North Carolina implemented similar legislation in 1997, the fatality rate of 16-to-18-year-old drivers dropped by 27 percent. To me, that was a big number.”
House Bill 1653, authored by Morgan, would require teens to apply for a graduated driver’s license, to be issued in between a traditional learner permit (typically issued to drivers under the age of 16) and a standard, unrestricted license (typically issued to drivers age 16 and above).
After possessing a learner permit for at least six months, an individual would be eligible for what the bill refers to as an intermediate Class D license. State law currently allows those individuals who have a learner permit to drive during daylight hours only, provided a parent or guardian is in the vehicle with them, and with no more than one passenger.
However, under the restrictions of an intermediate Class D license, a teen driver could drive from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., with exceptions for when the teen is driving to work, school, church or related activities or if a licensed driver is seated next to them.
Additionally, they would not be allowed to have any passengers in the vehicle unless the passengers are family or unless a licensed driver age 21 or older is seated next to the teen driver.
After a teen driver has had an intermediate Class D license for at least one year (or for half a year if they have completed a driver education course and special parent-certified driver training, also called for by the bill) and providing they have no convictions on their driving record, they would then be eligible to receive a standard, unrestricted driver’s license.
In addition, Morgan’s bill states that any driver’s permit may be revoked if it is found that an individual knowingly gave “false or inaccurate information” during the application process.
Morgan said he has already been contacted by supporters of the legislation, many of whom were “parents whose kids were killed in accidents with four or five kids in the car with them.”
Referring once again to the North Carolina model, Morgan said that state’s license system also resulted in a 25 percent drop in accidents among teen drivers.
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