State law requires longer amount of time at wheel

By Jon Hansen

For many parents, spending time in a car while their child is learning how to drive is similar to being in prison.

The sentence has just doubled.

A new law now requires that parents spend 50 hours with their child driving the car, twice as long as the law previously required, before the child may apply for an Illinois driver’s license. Additionally, 10 of the 50 hours must take place at night.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the law late last month, and it became effective immediately.

“Driving is about instinct,” Blagojevich said in a press release. “It’s about experience. And when you first start driving, those are two things you just don’t have. The bill I’m signing today will help make sure that teenage drivers are better trained and more experienced, and that should make the roads safer for all of us.”

House Bill 4768, introduced in January by State Rep. John D’Amico (D-Chicago), originally called for the driving age to be raised to 18 for Illinois drivers. But according to secretary of state spokesman Dave Druker, this proposal was too strong.

“I think someone is as mature at age 16 as they are at 18,” Druker said. “But hopefully this is the first step to have a major impact in reducing the number of deaths of our young drivers on the road.”

According to the secretary of state’s office, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people age 15 to 20. Proponents of the bill say it strengthens the Illinois Graduated Driver’s license program.

“This is common sense legislation,” said State Sen. Dan Rutherford (R-Pontiac).

Rutherford co-sponsored the proposal.

“Research shows that teenagers are more likely than adults to get into a car accident, but that increased time in the driver’s seat reduces that likelihood when they take to the road by themselves,” he said.

In April, the bill passed the House unanimously and by a 55-1 margin in the Senate. The law saws that any teen that has already been issued a permit will still be required to complete only 25 practice hours with a parent. Any teen that has yet to be issued a permit will fall under the new requirement of 50 hours.

Additionally, the new law requires that a parental consent form be signed in person at the driver services facility or signed and notarized if the parent cannot accompany the teen to the driving exam.

“If parents don’t feel like their child is ready to get their license and be out on the road, they don’t have to sign the form,” Druker said.