Laws put in place to help keep teen drivers safer on the road - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Laws put in place to help keep teen drivers safer on the road

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Parents, you may be a better and more experienced driver then your teen. However, according to a recent study by AAA, you are more distracted by technology while driving. Despite what you might think, AAA says that teens are texting or using their phones while driving less often than adults.

The study shows drivers ages 25 to 39 are the ones that are most likely to use their cell phone while operating a vehicle. Second on the list are adults 40 to 59 years-old.

"We think that creates some potentially dangerous problems because it means that older drivers feel more confident in using their phone and texting, despite the fact that it's still not safe for them either," said Michael Green, Manager of AAA Public Relations.

AAA is hoping that the low percentage of teens on cell phones while driving is a result of the wide-spread safety messages about the dangers of texting and driving.

Teens may be less likely to use their phones while behind the wheel. However, when it comes to driving in general, teens are more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident. That's why the state of Iowa is making a few changes on the driving laws for teens.

"I think anytime that you can implement a law that can help even a couple people is worthwhile," said Rebecca Moritz, a drivers license examiner.

The Iowa Department of Transportation said that car accidents are responsible for 40 percent of deaths in teens ages 15-19 years-old.

In Iowa, the DOT said teens have a higher fatality rate in motor vehicle crashes than any other age group. Adding that teen crashes are predictable - some even preventable. One way, reducing distractions.

To do that, starting January 1st, Iowa is limiting the number of passengers a teen can have in their vehicle. For the first six months, drivers with an intermediate license or a minor school license can only have one minor passenger. Unless there's an adult in the car. Or, if the passengers are related to the driver. Moritz says studies have shown that when there are additional passengers in the vehicle, it does become a major distraction for drivers.

"It shows once you get a group of friends in the car, it becomes more of a social environment," said Moritz. "There for the focus is not going to be on the driving."

One teen from North High School said he doesn't think the new law is fair.

"People have the right to drive," said Egin Salmen. "They wait for that their whole lives and just to be told that they can't have passengers."

Luckily for teens, there's one more option.

"The parent can wave that restriction if they choose to," said Moritz. "They have to do it at the time that the child is issued the permit or the intermediate license."

The new law also requires young drivers to carry an instruction permit for twice as long as they do now. Rather than the current six-month requirement, teen drivers will have to spend one full year behind the wheel, with an adult riding shot-gun, before they can apply for a school permit.

"I don't think that's very fair either, because I know it was a long six-months wait for me," said Salmen. "If I wouldn't have had my license at that six-months point, we wouldn't have had anyone to drive us to school."

The Iowa DOT said statistics show that increasing the supervised driving time spent with an experienced drivers will help beginning drivers develop safer habits behind the wheel.

If you're a new driver, who already has an intermediate license or will be applying for one before the end of the year, you're still only required to complete the current six-months of behind the wheel training with an adult present. However, if you're applying for an intermediate license after January 1st, you will be under the new twelve-month law.

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