|August 22, 2013
What you need to know about teen drivers and Montanaís Graduated Driverís License Law
By Diana Schwab of Lake Countyís Buckle Up Coalition
A driverís license and car keys, every teenagers dream. While some parents may cringe at the thought of their child driving, many are happy for their teenís new found independence and freedom from chauffeuring. Parents can help reduce the risk of these young drivers getting into an accident by being familiar with the Graduated Driverís License (GDL) Law and the reasons for some of its guidelines. Because car crashes are the number one cause of teen deaths in the U.S., the gradual steps of the GDL laws introduce teens to the ďart of drivingĒ in phases.
The first step of the GDL in the Learnerís Permit requires 50 hours of supervised driving time, with 10 hour of that to be at night and lasts 6 months. Each occupant must wear a seat belt, which is also Montanaís law. If you are pulled over and you arenít wearing your seat belt, you can get a ticket and an extension to your GDL Restrictions. Supervision must be provided by a licensed parent/guardian in the front seat and lastly, you must remain free from all traffic violations and alcohol/drug offenses. Because teen drivers are much more likely to be involved in a crash when they drive at night, it is important to have this time to be able to gain experience judging distances at night and getting use to headlights coming at you.
The second step to the GDL is a restricted license for one year. After 50 hours of supervised driving time and no alcohol or drug offenses, teens need time to become familiar with driving without an adult. Certain conditions are especially high risk for teens, including dusk/dark nighttime driving, high speeds, passengers and adverse weather conditions, traffic and road conditions. Conditions for this restricted license are that each occupant must wear a seat belt; teens may not drive between 11 pm and 5 am. The reasons for this is that as a young driver, the greatest risk of being involved in a fatal or injury crash is at night. Also important, for the first six months teens may drive with only one passenger who is not a family member. For the second six months, teens may drive with up to three passengers who are not family members. The reason for restricting other teen passengers is that teen drivers with more than one teen passenger are twice as likely to be in a crash as a drunken driver.1 Distraction is probably the most likely cause.
The third step is the full privilege driverís license. Upon successful completion of Steps One and Two or reaching age 18, whichever comes first, the youth receives their regular driverís license.
The greatest risks for teen drivers are due to inexperience and/or poor judgment that are: less ability to detect hazards, less ability to assess risk, overconfidence and taking risks like speeding, having too many teen passengers which create distractions, cell phone use and/or texting and driving, driving at night, and not wearing a seat belt. According to the Center for Disease C, over 55 percent of teens killed in car crashes were not using their seat belts. While young people often feel they are invincible, no one can overcome the laws of physics. Everything in the car will continue to travel at that speed until stopped by something. Seat belts also keep you inside the vehicle. As the driver, you are responsible for making sure everyone is buckled up, and it is Montanaís law. With cell phones, pull over and call or text the person back. Many Montana cities now have laws against cell phone use and driving.
Montanaís GDL aims to decrease teen crash risk by getting parents involved in helping their teens develop safe, responsible driving skills and attitudes. At first, it is with supervised practice and then by avoiding high-risk conditions for at least the first year of driving alone. Like in sports and music, competence, skill, judgment and good habits grow through experience. Parents should continue to monitor, drive with and impose consequences on teen driving even after teens have their full privilege driverís license.