Ohio law could require teen drivers to spend a full year with a learner's permit

Posted at 7:41 PM, Oct 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-19 19:44:59-04

CINCINNATI -- "It's terrifying" for a parent to watch their child become a driver, John Ritter said Friday. "The first time your kid walks out the door to get into your car, you just kind of look at each other like, ‘What in the world just happened here?'"

To Ritter's relief -- and maybe the consternation of many teenagers -- a law pending in Ohio's state congress could extend the amount of time teens must spend with a provisional driver's license before they get their real one. During that time, they would also be subject to greater restrictions on when they are allowed to drive. 

Under House Bill 293, teens would spend a full year with their learner's permit before becoming eligible for their permanent license. During that year, they would also be prohibited from driving without a licensed supervising adult between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. (Under current law, the supervised period begins at midnight.)

According to Mike Belcort, an instructor at the American Automobile Association Driving School, starting that period at 10 p.m. would cut into the most dangerous time for teen drivers to be on the road. That could, in turn,  protect Ohioan teens from one of their most common causes of death: Car crashes.

"It's the number one killer of teens in America, and it doesn't seem like we do enough about it," Belcort said. "It's like people just think of it as the price of doing business, sometimes."

Ritter said he believes a longer probationary period would allow new drivers to experience driving in all four seasons while supervised, instead of having to deal with tricky seasonal weather -- ice, for instance -- for the first time by themselves.

"One of the things that got me was, (my 16-year-old daughter) got her license but had never seen snow on the road," he said. "She never really got an opportunity to practice."

Ohio lawmakers plan to vote on the bill before the end of 2018. If it passes as-written, its extended precautions could take effect as soon as July.