Training changes for teen drivers

Published 10:33 am Friday, December 19, 2014

ST. PAUL — Minnesota will soon require parents to take a bigger hand in their child’s driver training.

A new law taking effect Jan. 1 requires parents to supervise more hours and keep a log. Parents also will be encouraged to take an awareness class.

Teen drivers with their permits will now have to practice behind the wheel for 20 more hours, bringing the total time of supervised driving up to 50 hours. But if a parent attends a 90-minute class, the student only needs to reach 40 hours.

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Of those practice hours, 15 must be driven at night, up from 10 currently.

Traffic crashes are the second leading killer of Minnesota teens, with inexperience one of the factors. That’s why Sarah Schacht of Eden Prairie said on Thursday she is happy to take the course and help her 15-year-old daughter, Elsa Jane, get more experience and confidence behind the wheel.

“They should get as much practice as they can and one thing that I learned from the class is it shouldn’t stop when they get their license. You keep practicing, you keep going with them, which is something I hadn’t thought of before,” said Schacht, who took the supplemental parent class.

In 2013, there were more than 6,000 crashes on Minnesota roads involving 16- and 17-year-olds. That averages more than 16 crashes a day.

The new law requires all driver education programs to offer parent awareness classes which provide information on teen driving risks, laws and the role parents play in making sure their teenage children practice safe driving behaviors.

Gordy Pehrson, youth driving programs coordinator at the Office of Traffic Safety, encouraged parents to attend an awareness class with their soon-to-be teen drivers and practice with their teens beyond the minimum requirements.

“Every teen is unique in how long it takes to become an experienced driver. Parents need to make decisions about their teen drivers that place safety as a priority over convenience, especially during their first year of independent driving,” Pehrson said in a statement.

Minnesota lawmakers approved the new parental oversight program and stricter teen driving standards this spring.