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Additional driver's training

Published (3/7/2008)
By Mike Cook
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The 16-year-old granddaughter of Dick Zahn was killed in a traffic incident nearly five years ago near Ely.

While Zahn, who had been a driving instructor for five years, will never know exactly why the crash happened, he supports a bill that would reduce the chances of teenage driver error being a factor in future tragedies.

“What do we place on the value of training for our kids?” he asked the House Transportation and Transit Policy Subcommittee March 5.

Sponsored by Rep. David Dill (DFL-Crane Lake), HF2460 would require at least 40 hours of classroom instruction and 10 hours behind the wheel before a teen could get their provisional license. Current law requires 30 hours and six hours, respectively, which is the same as more than 30 other states.

The bill would also increase the number of hours of prior driving time required from 30 to 50, with a logging of those hours required; make falsifying the log a misdemeanor; and would require that a provisional license holder convicted of certain DWI and moving violations not be issued a regular driver’s license until at least age 18. Current law says the person cannot be issued a license until 12 consecutive months have expired since the conviction date or age 18, whichever comes first.

Approved by the subcommittee, the bill next goes to the House Transportation Finance Division, with the recommendation it go the House Public Safety and Civil Justice Committee.

Jim Thienes, president of the Minnesota Driving School Association, supports measures to increase teen driver safety, but is concerned about the added costs.

“The cost of a teen driver’s education in the metro area is now between $329 and $425. With this increase in classroom and behind-the-wheel training, we’re going to be looking at approximately $700-$800 driver’s ed for teens.”

Thienes said 30 hours is a good amount of time for classroom instruction, but additional time behind the wheel would be beneficial. “This learning is real world, real time and 100 percent applicable to the task they will be doing.”

A companion bill, SF2282, sponsored by Sen. Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook), awaits action by the Senate Transportation Committee.

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