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Possible Revisions to Missouri's Driver's License Laws Discussed

February 07, 2006
By: John Amick
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 896

JEFFERSON CITY - Teen drivers with instruction permits would have more restrictions under a plan presented to a Senate committee Tuesday.

"Any parent who has teens driving has concerns and worries, said Sen. John Griesheimer, R-Washington. "No question strengthening this law will save lives."

The proposed bill includes an added amount of hours required that novice Missouri drivers must have before earning a temporary instruction permit.

Currently, drivers need 20 hours of driving experience with a parent or guardian. The new law would require 40 hours, with 10 of those coming at night.

"These new night provisions will provide young motorists the most beneficial experience," said Capt. Bret Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol. "Time driving at night is sometimes forgotten for learning drivers."

To ensure drivers have completed the required hours, parents would have to sign an affidavit when the child applies for a license, Johnson said.

The new law would also restrict the number of passengers allowed to ride with teenage drivers with intermediate licenses that are issued to persons between the age 16 to 18.

For the first six months after obtaining the license, which would be available after the person has completed the 40 hours and is 16 years old, the driver would be allowed only one passenger under the age of 19 who is not a member of the driver's immediate family.

That number would jump to three passengers allowed after the completion of the first six months.

Fatal-accident odds double for teenage drivers when a passenger is present, according to Missouri AAA. Odds that a driver will be involved in a crash increase by 100 percent when a teen drives with a passenger. With two or more passengers, those odds increase by 500 percent.

"Anytime more experience is given to kids with a parent or guardian, it will help them once they get the intermediate license," Johnson said.

Johnson noted that the law would also require teenage drivers, and anyone riding with them, to wear seat belts at all times. He also said the intermediate license would not be valid from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., except in cases of an emergency, job, or school function.

According to Steve Frey, a representative of Farmers Insurance, from 1995 to 2004, national teen drivers ages 16-17 killed approximately 31,000 other motorists. Missouri teens accounted for 1,044 of those fatalities, ranking tenth most in the country.

Most states have toughened their driving standards since 1996, after Florida tightened its laws following a fatal 1995 accident involving a 16-year old who crashed her 1992 car into an oncoming car in Titusville, Fla.

The driver, who had two months of driving experience, had three teenage passengers and was driving around 90 mph when she crossed into the highway's median strip, killing five people.