DAYTON — A bill before the Ohio Legislature requiring teenage drivers under 18 years old to use their learner’s permits for a full year would mean minors would have to be at least 16½ before they could get their probationary driver’s license.
The proposed legislation aims to give young drivers more experience behind the wheel before they are eligible to get their license. Ohioans now can get a permit at 15 years and six months old and a probationary license as early as 16 years old, the Dayton Daily News reported . The bill would extend the permit phase for minors from 6 months to 12 months.
The Ohio Department of Transportation data found drivers ages 15 to 19 make up about 5% of Ohio’s driving population and are involved in about 15% of all accidents.
“We will never get away from the idea of teens being grossly misrepresented (in crashes), but I think we kind of owe it to ourselves and to them to get them the best equipped,” Sgt. Chris Colbert at the State Highway Patrol’s Dayton post, said.
Over the last five years, 15- to 17-year-old drivers have been at fault in more than 67,000 crashes in Ohio, the newspaper reported. Of those, 150 involved fatalities and 1,451 included a serious injury, according to the patrol.
Capt. Andy Flagg of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said young drivers don’t recognize the risk of distracted driving and speeding in the same way as more experienced drivers. They may have quicker reaction times than older drivers, but they aren’t starting the reaction until later because they haven’t learned to recognize the warning signs, he said.
“There’s no one thing when you’re operating a motor vehicle because there’s so many things in play,” Flagg said.
Increasing the amount of time minors must have a permit will give them six more months to experience different driving situations, said Denice Walkup-King, a former driver’s instructor. Young drivers who get their permit in March or April may never experience snow until after they are driving on their own.
Braelen Devoe, a 16-year-old Centerville High School student, opposes changing the law.
“I’ve been taught really well on how to be a defensive driver, so I feel like right now I’m ready to take on the road alone,” said Devoe, who was 15½ when she got her permit in October.
Devoe is finishing up her driving hours in driver’s education.