Minot area students have mixed opinions on a new state law that will make them wait an extra six months before they can get a driver's license.
Alexa Tate, an eighth-grader at Erik Ramstad Middle School, said she'll get her learner's permit this summer, but her parents are making her wait until she turns 16 to get a license. They want her to have a full two years of practice before she is driving on her own.
Under the new law, which takes effect on Jan. 1, teen drivers will have to hold a learner's permit for a year before they are allowed to take the road test. That means the youngest a driver can hold a license in the state is 15. Currently they can get a permit at 14 and a driver's license at 14 years, 6 months.
Even though Alexa, like many teens in North Dakota, has done some driving in the fields, she thinks 14 is probably too young to get a license. Neither Illinois or Minnesota, the states where she lived before moving to North Dakota, let drivers get an unrestricted license at 14.
Alexa's classmates, eighth-graders Rachel Dostert and Melora Haagenson, have mixed feelings about the law. North Dakota is still an agricultural state, they said, and some kids might need to drive to help out on the farm or to drive themselves to and from
school events and work. Learning to drive on gravel probably makes a new driver a better driver, Rachel said.
Under current state law, all teen drivers under the age of 18 must drive with a learner's permit for a minimum of six months before taking the road test.
If the permit-holder is younger than 16, he or she must take an approved driver education course before taking the road test, which includes 30 hours of class work and six hours of on-the-road training with the Department of Public Instruction or a North Dakota Highway Patrol approved commercial driving school.
Kids younger than 16 who earn a license are only allowed to drive their parent's or guardian's car and may not carry more passengers in the car than the vehicle manufacturer's recommended passenger capacity. Kids with a learner's permit must drive with a licensed driver over age 18 who has a minimum of three years of driving experience sitting in the seat next to the driver.
Under the new law, which takes effect on Jan. 1, teen drivers will have to hold a learner's permit for a year before they are allowed to take the road test. That means the youngest a driver can hold a license in the state is 15.
On the other hand, Rachel said she doesn't think it will hurt kids to wait until they are 15 to get a license or hurt parents to have to drive kids to and from events for six months longer. Rachel's and Melora's moms coordinate pick-up and drop-off times with each other and with other parents so one drops the kids off and another picks them up when they go to the movies or some other event.
Velva freshmen Jorden Keller, Alex Erickson, Nate Monk, Brad Dean and David Larson, agreed that the change in law is pretty good, for the most part. Extra practice time for new drivers could help cut down on accidents, they said. Still, they added, age doesn't necessarily mean someone is a good or a bad driver. They know adults who are worse drivers than 14- or 15-year old drivers.
None of the kids, except Alexa, plan to wait to get their licenses. The new law will impact kids younger than they are, and some of their younger classmates don't think the law change is fair.