The Iowa Senate has passed a bill that would set an earlier curfew for some teenagers who are driving in Iowa. Under current law, 16- and 17-year-olds who hold an “intermediate” driver’s license are not allowed to drive after 12:30 a.m. The bill would impose a new, 11 p.m. curfew on those drivers.
Senator Merlin Bartz, a Republican from Grafton, argued it should be parents, not the state, setting the curfew. “Maybe we should have consulted the movie industry because they’re certainly need to have to move all of their movie schedules us,” Bartz says, “because a 9:30 movie in Mason City means that my 16-year-old has to get up in the middle of it to make it (home) by 11 o’clock.”
Bartz was the only “no” vote on the bill. Forty-seven senators voted for the legislation, which would impose another restriction on teen drivers. If the bill becomes law, a teenage driver could only have one passenger in their vehicle who is under the age of 18. There would be an exception for family members, though, as an unlimited number of siblings could ride in a car driven by a teenager.
Senator Bill Heckroth, a Democrat from Waverly, says accident data shows that not only does a teenager’s risk of crashing increase as the clock approaches midnight, but having friends along in the car is another dangerous distraction for teen drivers.
“These changes are overwhelmingly supported by the parents of these teens as well as many, many other Iowans,” Heckroth says. There is a caveat to the curfew proposed in the bill. Students would be able to drive between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. if they’ve been at work or a school function.