Bill would tighten rules for teen drivers


Jennie Runevitch/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - Teenage drivers are likely to face new rules of the road.

The Indiana House approved a bill Wednesday that would make young drivers wait longer and practice more before getting their license. The bill approved 93-6 would also ban those under 18 from using a cell phone behind the wheel.

Meredith Marti, 15, is eager to get her driver's license. She's enrolled at Drive Zone in Greenwood.

"This will be my first drive lesson. I'm excited because it'll help my parents out and it'll be easier for me to get around," Marti said.

15-year-old Keagan Stiner says learning to drive is also right of passage.

"I've been wanting to drive since age seven, so I'm really looking forward to getting my license," Stiner said.

But Indiana lawmakers want to toughen the rules. The House passed a bill that would require teens to get at least 50 hours of supervised driving experience and wait longer to get their license.

The minimum age would go from 16 years and one month to 16 years and six months.

Tom Zachary backs the proposal. He's president of Drive Zone and president of the Indiana Driver Education Association.

"By raising the age at which a student can obtain that first probationary license, we will definitely cut down on their risk," Zachary said.

Proponents say the bottom line is that the legislation will save lives. AAA Hoosier Motor Club reports traffic crashes are the top killer of teenagers. In fact, from 1998 to 2007, 783 people died in accidents involving teen drivers.

"I'm just so thankful that our legislature listened. They've got a bill put together there that's going to accomplish a lot of reduction in crashes, injuries and deaths of teen drivers," Zachary said.

The bill also would ban anyone under 18 from using a cell phone while driving. Even students give that change a positive reception.

"I think that's a good idea because I know too many people who've gotten in a crash because of their cell phones," Stiner said.

"You see people with their phones right in front of them and they're trying to steer. It's crazy," Marti added.

But by removing distractions and adding experience, lawmakers hope teens in traffic will stay safe.

The teen driving bill has to go back to the state Senate to consider changes made by the House. If approved, the new rules would take effect in July 2010.

The cell phone ban could take effect this July.