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On the path to stricter driving

Intermediate Iowa licenses have tighter restrictions

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 11:03 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 11:05 a.m. CST

Students with instruction permits will be holding their license a little bit longer starting Jan 1, when laws signed by Gov. Terry Branstad will go into effect.

The law puts more restrictions on young drivers by adding driving time to the licenses and fewer people allowed in the vehicle.

“I think driving habits of teens have gotten better,” said Bill Messerole, Creston High School principal. “I think the whole highway safety emphasis on texting and driving, so I hope it makes a difference and it makes it safer, because that’s still a dangerous group statistically.”

According to a Des Moines Register story, the bill, signed in April, “has strong support from the insurance industry and medical groups. Studies show teenage drivers are more likely to be involved in traffic crashes than any other group, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation, and crash rates increase by 700 percent when parents are not in the car.”

Current restrictions for an instruction permit include the driver to be 14, the license held a minimum of six months and the driver cannot drive without a parent or guardian, immediate family member 21 or older, or someone 25 or older without written permission. A parent or guardian must give written consent for the teen to obtain a license.

Under the new restrictions, young drivers must hold on to the license for an additional six months, for a total of 12 months, before getting an intermediate license. There are no other changes to the instruction license.

“The big thing for the school is that it could change the parameters for the school permit,” said Bill Messerole, Creston High School principal. “I don’t think they’ve come out with a ruling yet.”

For drivers under the age of 18, an intermediate license can be a right of passage. The license is obtained at age 16, with restrictions the driver meet all conditions of the instruction license. Written consent of a parent or guardian is required.

The newlaw adds to the intermediate license the restriction that drivers cannot have more than one nonrelated minor passenger in the vehicle, and must hold the license for a minimum of 12 months.

“I think it’s an okay idea,” said CHS senior William Haugland. “I myself, I didn’t really drive with my friends much until I got a job and started working more, and then I started going out and doing stuff.”

However, CHS senior Alex Heacock disagrees.

“I think it’s kind of harsh to make a broad rule like that,” said Heacock. “Will it get followed? I mean, it’s going to be kind of tough to enforce.”

The next step for underage drivers is the full license, available at age 17 if all conditions of the intermediate license are met.

Iowa will join 45 other states that operate under similar rules in the new law. According to a Cedar Rapids Gazette story, “researchers estimate that implementing more restrictive graduated driver’s license laws in Iowa could save 32 teen lives and save the state $200 million each year.”

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