Changes in teen driving law align with some national recommendations on decreasing fatalities

KELOLAND.com Original
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A graduated teen driver’s license system exists in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The systems are in place to keep teen drivers safer, the NHTSA said on its website.

Fatal crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

South Dakota has made changes in its teen driver license system that were supposed to be effective July 1 but on June 26, Gov. Kristi Noem issued an executive order to suspend the implementation. The state said the suspension would help to ease the backlog in driver’s license offices across the state.

Teens aged 14 to 18 will be required to have their instruction permit longer even if they pass a driver’s education course.

New changes include restrictions on passengers and requirements for instruction for driving at night and in bad weather, according to the South Dakota law.

But one change will allow for more driving alone at night under certain conditions.

Most of the changes fall in line with recommendations from the NHTSA, the Governors Highway Safety Association and studies on teen driving.

But why are states worried about making it safer for teens to drive?

The NHTSA said 3,255 teen drivers from 15 to 19 have been involved in fatal crashes since 2017. Those crashes killed 3,542 people.

The Governors Highway Safety Association said while fatal crashes with teen drivers aged 15-17 declined by 55% from 2005 to 2014 and 44% for drivers aged 18-20, teen drivers are still 1.6 times more likely to be involved in a crash than adult drivers. Teen drivers have crash rates three times higher than those of drivers age 20 and older based on miles driven.

Seventeen drivers in fatal crashes in 2018 in South Dakota were aged 15 to 20, according to the NHTSA. There were 148 total drivers in fatal crashes. Drivers aged 15 to 20 were 11.4% of those 148 drivers.

Of the 32,999 drivers involved in crashes in South Dakota in 2019, 4,145 of them were aged 0 to 19, according to the S.D. DPS. The crashes include all vehicles such as cars, tractors and others. The DPS said 4,145 was 12.9% of all drivers.

Teens also tend to engage in riskier behavior while driving such as texting, speeding or not wearing a seatbelt, according to the NHTSA. “Teen drivers have a higher rate of fatal crashes, mainly because of their immaturity, lack of skills, and lack of experience,” the NHTSA said.

In 2017, 271 teens were drivers in distracted driving fatal crashes. That accounts for 8% of all fatal crashes in which teens were drivers. The NHSTA said 297 people died in those crashes and 229 of them were teens.

Distractions include texting while driving and even passengers.

According to the NHSTA, one in three teens has said they have texted while driving.

A 2012 NHSTA study said that a teen driver with one teen passenger was twice as likely to engage in risky behavior while driving than without a passenger.

In 2017, only 58.8% of high school students always wore seat belts when riding as passengers, according to the CDC.

South Dakota is one of several states that allow 14-year-olds to drive through some sort of permit or license/permit.

South Dakota was one of several states that did not have restrictions on passengers in vehicles driven by a teen. That will change on July 1 when there will be restrictions on passengers for drivers on a restricted minor’s permit. During the first six-month period of driving on a restricted permit, no passengers are allowed except immediate family or members of the driver’s household. In the second six-month period of driving on a restricted permit, teens may have one passenger under 18 who is not immediate family or part of their household.

A 2010 study for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concluded that states with strong laws restricting passengers for teen drivers as well as restricting nighttime driving and delaying the age for permits and licenses have fewer teen crashes.

The changes in South Dakota involve time on an instruction permit and others.

Individuals aged 14 to 18 who get an instruction permit will be required to have that permit for 275 days or 180 days after they pass a driver’s education course, according to changes in the South Dakota law.

Before the change, teens needed to have the permit for 180 days or 90 days if an approved driver’s education class has been successfully completed before they could apply for a restricted minor’s license/permit.

Another change in the law: “Any minor holding an Instruction Permit issued July 1, 2020 or after, must complete 50 hours of adult supervised driving. The 50 hours must include 10 hours of driving in inclement weather and 10 hours of nighttime driving,” the South Dakota Department of Safety website said.

Currently under a restricted minor’s license/permit, a teen driver can drive unaccompanied from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. and can drive with a legal guardian from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., according to the South Dakota Department of Public Safety. But there are changes for driving times.

The change allows for exceptions for driving after 10 p.m. on a restricted minor’s license/permit under these conditions: if they are taking the most direct route and traveling to or from: school or a school event, regular worship service or meeting and work. Operating a self-propelled agricultural machine that is not subject to registration under 32-5 is also allowed after 10 p.m. Anyone under 18 years of age must drive on a restricted minor’s permit for a minimum of six months before upgrading to an unrestricted driver’s license.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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