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Graduated driver’s licenses OK’d (new law)

Published (5/30/2008)
By Mike Cook
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Supporters call it a safety issue; opponents say it is government putting its nose into something that should be decided between parents and their child.

Arguably the highlight of the omnibus transportation policy law is graduated driver’s license language.

Originally offered as HF2628 by Rep. Kim Norton (DFL-Rochester), the clause, effective Aug. 1, 2008, requires that during the first six months of provisional licensure, a licensee cannot operate a vehicle carrying more than one passenger under age 20 who is not a member of their immediate family. That increases to three passengers the following six months.

Also during the first six months of provisional licensure, a person under age 18 is prohibited from driving between midnight and 5 a.m., except when the driver is going between the person’s home and job or school event where no transportation is provided; the driver is driving due to a job; or the driver is accompanied by a licensed driver or state identification card holder who is at least age 25.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty wanted a parental opt-out, which law enforcement officials are against.

Graduated driver’s licenses is one of three safety provisions that many members had initially sought. However, making failure to wear a seatbelt a primary offense was rejected by the House, and a clause to require a child passenger restraint system be used for every child under age 8, or under 4-foot-9, instead of the current age 4, was removed by a conference committee.

Other provisions in the law, effective Aug. 1, 2008, unless otherwise noted, include:

• making it illegal to text message when the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic;

• a person who can document homelessness or eligibility for certain need-based relief that has their vehicle impounded can get back some essential contents, under certain circumstances, without paying for vehicle retrieval;

• creates the Office of Pupil Transportation Safety within the State Patrol, effective May 24, 2008;

• drivers are required to move a lane over when passing freeway service patrol, road maintenance and construction vehicles parked or stopped on a roadway;

• requires driver’s education curriculum to include instruction on the duties of a driver when encountering a bicycle, other non-motorized vehicles or a pedestrian;

• a person who duplicates, alters or forges a commercial vehicle inspection decal will be charged with a gross misdemeanor, and it will be a gross misdemeanor to possess a fraudulent decal;

• a second set of disability plates could be issued to a vehicle owner if issuance is approved by the Council on Disability; and

• the Transportation Department is to develop a statewide plan for freight and passenger rail.

Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls) and Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing) sponsor the law.


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