The Iowa Senate has approved a bill that will force Iowa teens to spend more time behind the wheel — and in drivers ed class — before they can get their drivers license.
If the bill is approved by the House and signed by the governor, students would have to spend eight more hours in drivers ed and parents would be asked to make sure they spend 10 more hours in the passenger seat, teaching their kids to drive.
Drivers who get a ticket or are pulled over for drunken driving before they turn 18 would have to undergo even more training. Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, says the bill’s a compromise because it doesn’t include the bans on cell phone use and other teen driving restrictions sought by the Department of Public Safety. “This is a good bill,” McCoy says.
But McCoy predicted lawmakers would be back in future years tackling the problems associated with teen drivers. Public safety officials wanted to limit the number of passengers teens could have in their car but senators decided that was too restrictive, citing parents who say carpooling arrangements help them ensure their kids get shuttled to and from school and school activities.
Senator Bob Brunkhorst, a Republican from Waverly, voted for the bill, but objected to the provision which would require everyone under the age of 17 to wear a seat belt. “You’re taking 10 kids to a movie, you pile into the van — you’re going to be illegal there,” Brunkhorst says. He cited his own childhood experience of jumping into a pick-up and being driven to a field to walk beans — and that truck didn’t have enough seat belts for all the passengers. “There’s so many instances where (as a result of this legislation) you’re going to make average Iowans illegal,” Brunkhorst says.
Earlier this month, a former state senator whose son died last summer in a drunk driving crash said legislators weren’t willing to pass the kinds of driving restrictions that are needed for teen drivers. Tony Bisignano (of Des Moines has joined Governor Tom Vilsack to lobby for changes, and Bisignano says lawmakers need to ban teens from driving after 11 o’clock at night and forbidding anyone other than a relative of the teen driver from being in the teen’s car.
Bisignano’s son, Nick, drank at a party, climbed behind the wheel and crashed his car at high speed, killing himself and severely injuring his friend who was in the passenger seat.