Iowa Senate approves more restrictions on young drivers

Bill would extend permit period for beginning drivers from 6 months to a year

Young, experienced drivers would face more restrictions designed to improve the safety for them, their passengers and other users of Iowa roadways under a bill approved by the Iowa Senate Wednesday.

Senate File 115, which passed 41-8, would extend from six months to one year the time that a teenager with a learner’s permit would need to practice supervised driving with a parent or guardian in the car before he or she would receive a graduated driver’s license.

Also, the measure would restrict the number of passengers riding in a car operated by a driver to one non-sibling under the age of 18 during the first six months of an “intermediate” license to minimize distractions. An exception would be made for more than one sibling passenger and, before passing the measure, senators approved an “opt-out” provision on the passenger restriction for parents of youth in rural areas to seek a waiver.

Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, the bill’s floor manager, said the bill “is about maximizing experience and minimizing risk for our young drivers.” He said requiring a full year of driving would expose a teen driver to all weather conditions and seasons they could encounter on Iowa roadways.

“This bill is about saving lives, saving accidents and saving money,” he said. “This is something that most of the states in the union are doing. We’re way behind.”

Bowman noted that 45 other states operate under the rule changes included in S.F. 115. He said 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.

Currently, teen drivers can get a learner’s permit at age 14 after an intermediate driver’s license at age 16, after they’ve driven at least six months with an adult in the vehicle. There currently is no passenger restriction for young drivers.

The bill, which was opposed by eight GOP senators, now goes to the Iowa House for consideration.

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