CLEVELAND — In a move to lower the number of teens who are killed in traffic accidents, the U.S. Senate is considering a bill that would raise the minimum standards for getting a driver’s license.


Teen Drivers

Ohio Teen Drivers

Ohio License already has a Graduated Driver Licensing law: a three-state system beginning at 15 years and six months for a learner’s permit, age 16 for the intermediate stage and age 18 for full licensure.

The bipartisan bill, which is now in committee, would require all states to have a GDL law, but if passed, it would raise standards in Ohio as well.

Teenagers would be required to wait until they are 16 to get a learner’s permit. The law would extend all restrictions on teen drivers (number of passengers allowed in a vehicle, hours of driving allowed after dark) and it would prohibit non-emergency use of cell phones and other devices, including texting.

The bill, known as the STANDUP ACT was introduced in 2009, but picked up momentum last month when a group of parents, teens, auto insurance representatives and others rallied in favor of it on Capitol Hill.

For parents like Cindy Swinehart, whose 16-year-old son just got his license, there can never be enough precautions.

“They just think we’re going to get in the car and go. It doesn’t work that way,” Swinehart said of her son, Austin.

Swinehart says she takes safety further than current laws.

Swinehart makes her son call or text when he arrives at a destination, and prohibits anyone from riding in the car with him. She says Austin will lose his driving privileges if his grades fall below a B average.

“If we can get them a little more experience, maybe it saves one life,” she said.

The state of Ohio mandates student drivers spend 50 hours practicing driving under supervision.

Driving instructors say thorough training is the key to lowering risk.

“The idea of mandating every state to do one thing doesn’t seem to fit,” said Ken Stout.

Stout founded Drive Team twenty years ago. Through clinics, his instructors have given over 2,000 teens more than 100 hours of training each.

“That’s the biggest problem they face. Learning the skill and dynamics of a vehicle. If they don’t have it, that’s the biggest risk,” Stout said.

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