Changes to the teen driving law that go into effect in January will require teen drivers to have their learner’s permit for a year before receiving their full license, and also restrict the number of teen passengers that ride along. The legislation was updated following a number of vehicle safety studies.
That included work from Daniel McGehee and his team at the Public Policy Center at the University of Iowa. “Every eight days in Iowa, we lose a teen in a car crash. This was really the hardest one for our team, because it became fairly personal,” McGehee says.
The study found a key factor in fatal car crashes involving teen drivers. “We found that 72-percent of teen fatalities had other teen passengers on board. So, it’s very striking to see each one of these fatal crashes.”
The law will allow teen drivers to only have one non-family member under the age of 18 with them in the car for the first six months. McGehee says requiring drivers to have a permit for one year will gives parents a chance to drive with their teen through all of Iowa’s seasons.
“You really don’t want them to be driving by themselves in that first snow or that first ice, or that first thunderstorm,” McGehee says. A study by the U.S. News and World Report ranked Iowa 49th in the nation for teen drivers’ safety based on state laws, road conditions, and fatal accidents.