House Votes to Require Young Drivers to Take Online Driving Courses

Under a bill that passed the Illinois House April 9, drivers age 18-20 would have to take online driving courses if they have not taken similar courses before. The proposed legislation is intended to eliminate a dangerous loophole: some young people wait until they turn 18 to apply for a driver’s license in order to avoid having to take the driver’s education courses required of younger drivers.

The bill is being pushed by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. According to White’s office, in 2012, about half of newly-licensed drivers age 18-20 did not take driver’s education courses. If the bill becomes law, applicants with no driver training would have to take six hours of online education courses on topics such as rules of the road, drug and alcohol awareness and texting while driving.

Currently, teenagers can obtain a driving permit at age 15 and a driver’s license at age 16 provided that a parent or guardian certifies that the person has driven 50 hours or more, with 10 hours of driving at night.

White said that teen driving fatalities had decreased by almost 60 percent since comprehensive driver’s license programs were implemented in 2008, and the new bill would build on that success.

Rep. John D’Amico, a Chicago Democrat, sponsored the bill. D’Amico said that ideally young drivers would receive greater than six hours of education, but the bill was a good place to start. He said the cost of the training to the applicant would probably be approximately $25.

D’Amico said that graduated licenses had been a success for safety. Graduated licenses allow drivers to begin practicing driving at age 15 with an adult in the car, if they are enrolled in a driver education course. At age 16 or 17, the driver may obtain an initial driver’s license with restrictions, provided a parent or guardian certifies that the requisite amount of driving practice has been completed. However, D’Amico said, the requirements had prompted some young people to wait until they turned 18 to obtain a driver’s license with no training.

According to White’s office, car accidents are the most common cause of death among people age 15 to 20. The risk of a fatal crash increases with each additional teenager in the car. Illinois’ graduated driver’s license program for drivers age 16 or 17 limits the number of passengers under the age of 20 to one, with the exception of close family members.

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