MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s a rite of passage for most teenagers: the day they take their behind the wheel test for a Minnesota driver’s license. But if your teenage son or daughter hasn’t completed their behind the wheel training by Jan. 1, 2015, a change in state law will require more time in training.
It’s due to stricter requirements in the state’s graduated driver’s license law, which is designed to make teens safer drivers. To accomplish that, young drivers will now be spending a lot more time behind the wheel with their parents, preparing for the road test.
According to the State Department of Public Safety, teenage drivers represent far too many of Minnesota’s highway fatalities. In 2013, more than 9,500 crashes in the state involved drivers under the age of 19. Those accidents killed 38 teenagers.
That’s the major reason the legislature voted to require more parental oversight and involvement in the process teens must follow to acquire a license.
“The light rail and city buses only go so far,” Katherine Jossi, who will soon take her driver’s test, said.
Jossi completed her behind the wheel training and the current requirement for 30 hours of practice time with a parent. But what started out frightening and a bit uneasy has become much more comfortable and confident.
“It’s been a process. You kind of have to learn to adjust. They don’t have the emergency brake like the driver’s ed guy does, so that’s kind of an adjustment,” she said.
The changes will mean all teenage drivers will be required to have 50 hours of practice time with a parent or licensed adult. That requirement would be reduced to 40 hours if the adult or parent completes a 90-minute teen driver safety awareness class.
Gordon Pehrson, Traffic Safety Coordinator with the Department of Public Safety, says it’s all designed to bring more parental oversight to teenage drivers.
“They need to make decisions about their teen drivers that place safety as a priority over convenience. That’s really important,” Pehrson said.
Both of Katherine’s parents have taken their turns with her on the city streets and busy highways.
“It’s amazing to watch your child start out nervously, almost get in a couple accidents and now she’s very experienced and probably almost as good of driver as we are,” Katherine’s father, Frank Jossi, said.
And Katherine’s mother, Judy, said parents need to make their children feel comfortable and confident behind the wheel, or it will show in their driving.
“The more comfortable she got, the more comfortable I got,” Judy said.
In early February, Katherine will take her behind the wheel test and feels confident that time spend practicing with her parents has made her ready.
“The only things I’m worried about are wide turns and parallel parking,” Katherine said.
In addition to the added hours of parental practice there is also a new requirement for parents to fill out a log documenting the 40 to 50 hours of practice driving.