Hamm seeks longer process for teen drivers to get licensesInsurance Commissioner Adam Hamm says North Dakota’s teen-age drivers should go through a longer process of gradually obtaining their drivers’ licenses, and that it would save lives and lower insurance premiums. Nearly a quarter of the state’s fatal accidents involve teen-age drivers, he said. Hamm said there needs to be another, intermediate, step in the process currently in state law.
By: Janell Cole, N.D. Capitol Bureau
BISMARCK — Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm says North Dakota’s teen-age drivers should go through a longer process of gradually obtaining their drivers’ licenses, and that it would save lives and lower insurance premiums.
Nearly a quarter of the state’s fatal accidents involve teen-age drivers, he said.
Hamm said there needs to be another, intermediate, step in the process currently in state law.
Hamm, who is seeking election to the post to which he was appointed a year ago, rolled out the plan Monday as part of his campaign.
His opponent, Rep. Jasper Schneider, D-Fargo, said that though “I’m all for safer teen drivers,” the big issues in the election should remain the high cost of health care and reform of Workforce Safety and Insurance.
“I think that’s where the focus needs to stay,” Schneider said.
Hamm’s plan raises the minimum age for a driver to get a learner’s stage permit to 14 1/2 and adds a new intermediate step lasting a year before an unrestricted license is granted.
“North Dakota is one of only three states in the nation that does not have an intermediate state for new drivers,” he said.
Currently, young drivers can get an instructional permit at 14, which allows them to drive if an adult with at least three years of driving experience is with them. After six months, they can drive a parent’s or guardian’s vehicle without supervision.
Hamm would retain the six-month learner phase but raise the learner’s permit age to 14 1/2 and forbid a permit for someone with previous drug, alcohol or seat belt violations. They would have to pass a written and vision exam and be accompanied by an adult driver, not use a cell phone while driving and would not be allowed to drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Then, Hamm proposes a one-year intermediate stage for which the minimum age is 15 and for which there must be at least 20 hours of supervised driving that is documented. They must pass a driving exam and can’t get an intermediate license if they have had seatbelt or drug-alcohol violations. During the one year, they can’t use a cell phone while driving, can’t have more than one passenger under 18 and can’t drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
After a year, the teen may qualify for an unrestricted license if he/she hasn’t had any driving infractions, no history of drug or alcohol use and has documented another 20 hours of supervised driving, including 10 hours at night.
The only way for teens to bypass the graduated li-cense is if they wait until they are 18 before applying for a license.
Hamm also proposes a new farm-ranch exemption in which teens who live or work on a farm or ranch could get a license at 14 1/2 that can only be used for farm-ranch driving.
Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Jamestown Sun