House Bill 293 Aims to Make Ohio Roads Safer
State lawmakers are considering a change to the steps teenage drivers go through before they get their drivers’ licenses. If passed, House Bill 293 would:
- Double the length of time a teen driver is required to have their learner’s permit – from 6 months to 12 months
- Require that nighttime driving protections begin at 9 p.m. instead of the current time of midnight
OhioHealth is supportive of House Bill 293 because crash rates for young drivers remain high and continue to increase. According to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), in 2016, 8,300 injuries and fatalities occurred from teen driver crashes in Ohio – up 15% from 2014. During that time, on average, 23 injuries or fatalities occurred every day from crashes involving teen drivers.
This bill is not just for the safety of teen drivers, but everyone on the roads. ODOT says less than 40% of the time in Ohio’s teen driver fatal crashes, the teen driver is the one killed. More than half of the time, the person killed is their passenger or someone in another car.
“The key importance is that we know a lot of crashes are due to inexperienced drivers,” said Shay O’Mara, MD, OhioHealth system chief, trauma and acute care surgery, and medical director of trauma services at OhioHealth Grant Medical Center. “In Ohio, we just don’t give them enough time to maximize their experience before they are out there putting others at risk.”
Recently, a hearing was held at the Ohio Statehouse for House Bill 293. Robert Foss, Ph.D., retired director of the Center for the Study of Young Drivers at University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health was in attendance to speak on behalf of the bill. Dr. Foss has done research at UNC that looks at the factors that contribute to the high crash rates of teenage drivers.
“The current system reflects what we knew about teen drivers and their crash rates back in the 1990s,” said Dr. Foss. “We’ve learned a great deal over the past 20+ years about this issue and Ohio’s licensing system hasn’t kept up with our current understanding of what the risks are and how to deal with them. The bottom line is this bill brings two changes that will really bring Ohio’s licensing system up to be one of the best in the nation.”
“The learner’s permit really needs to last 12 months. Teens simply cannot get enough driving experience under the safe conditions of having a parent in the car in just six months,” said Dr. Foss.
The bill, which has bipartisan co-sponsors, is currently being heard in the House Transportation and Public Safety committee. More hearings will likely occur in early 2018.