The State of Ohio’s House Bill 343 concerning young drivers didn’t come into effect until more than a year after I turned 16, but boy, were my parents ahead of the game. The bill established limitations on teen drivers’ passenger loads, but staggered them by age.
Once I obtained my driver’s license, Mom and Dad already enforced the idea that I could have only one passenger in my car, whether it was to gymnastics classes just down the road or during my 23-minute high-school commute.
The 2007 bill deals with laws in place for probationary drivers (anyone between the ages of 16 and 18 who completed the full requirements to obtain a driver’s license). Michael Deschaine, Program Administrator for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, explained that it was ultimately created to keep our teens safer, beginning with the moment they hold a temporary license.
At each age level of the probationary stage, different regulations exist. At 16, drivers may only have one non-relative in the car with them (unless a parent or guardian is there, too). Those who are 17 may have as many passengers as there are seatbelts in the car.
The limit on passengers affects teens carpooling to school, sports practices and social activities. Lance Clarke, a teacher at Bishop Watterson High School who also oversees student parking, said that there has been a spike in the number of vehicles with only one or two students who apply for a parking spot. Previously, they could accommodate all but 8 to 12 applications.
“Now, we have to turn away a lot more because of limited spaces and increased demand,” said Clarke.
Curfew laws also change depending on age.
“At age 16, you are restricted from driving from midnight to 6 a.m.,” said Deschaine. “At 17, you cannot drive between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.”
Most importantly, Deschaine encourages parents to understand their role as teenagers get behind the wheel.
“Parents have a big part to play and they know their kids better than anyone,” said Deschaine. “They need to keep their eyes on them as they learn how to drive. When they sign [the forms] as their kids get their temps and license, they say, ‘I’m responsible for anything that happens while my teen drives.’”
While I may have rolled my eyes back then, I’m thanking Mom and Dad now for looking out for me by limiting my distractions (and for letting me use the car!). I hope that I’m a better driver because of it.