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Officials say stricter Iowa driving laws will decrease teen fatalities

BY BRENT GRIFFITHS | MAY 03, 2013 5:00 AM

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An official from Illinois said requirements similar to those signed by Gov. Terry Branstad on Wednesday have dramatically reduced teenage driving fatalities.

Henry Haupt, deputy press secretary for the Illinois secretary of State, said the two most important components of the Illinois program for teenage drivers was the nine-month waiting period for 15-year-olds and a restriction on the number of non-sibling passengers for drivers under 18.

Those requirements mirror those of Senate File 115, which increase the time drivers under 18 must hold an intermediate license from six months to one year. There’s also a requirement that after a driver turns 16 and gets an intermediate license, the driver could only have one passenger under the age of 18 for six months with the exception of family members.

One driver-education instructor welcomed the new requirements, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Pauline Van Wyk, the owner of DriveTek — a private driver-education company based in Ankeny — said the new requirements will help — she has noticed a major difference in the maturity of teenage drivers over a short time frame.

“First of all, the maturity of a 14-year-old versus a 15-year-old, just by the nature of their age, is very different,” Van Wyk said. “They just don’t have the experience.”

Van Wyk — whose company works with Regina High — said the extra waiting period would make a world of difference for drivers.

Kim Snook, director of the Office of Driver Services with the Iowa Department of Transportation, agreed with Van Wyk and believes the new law offers greater opportunities for teenage drivers.

“We can make sure they have had the opportunity to drive in all different types of conditions,” she said.

Snook also supported the additional restrictions on the number of passengers, which she believes will eliminate distractions for drivers.

“Passengers are a distraction, just as other items are, and we know that any additional distractions for a teen driver puts them at more of a risk,” she said.

“Certainly, [the requirement] gives the time learning to drive with somewhat of a distraction.”

Haupt said the increased requirements in Illinois led to a decrease in the number of teen driver fatalities.

In 2007, before Illinois implemented its stricter requirements, the state reported 146 teenage driver fatalities, Haupt said. In one year, fatalities decreased to 87 and in 2012 — the most recent data — Illinois reported 58 deaths from teens age 16 to 19, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“As Secretary of State Jesse White likes to say, the proof is in the pudding, and these [requirements] help reduce teenage deaths by a significant amount,” Haupt said.


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