IDAHO FALLS – A bill being proposed in the Idaho House would allow parents to provide driver’s education for their teens.
House Bill 133, sponsored by Rep. Ron Mendive, R-Coeur d’Alene, aims to provide “equal opportunity for children of all income levels” and is primarily focused on serving those who live in rural areas, according to the bill’s statement of purpose.
“This legislation would benefit citizens from rural areas who must travel long distances to take their children to required public or private driver’s education instructors,” it says.
Under the bill, an eligible parent is one who is at least 21 years old and has a valid driver’s license that has not been revoked or suspended in the last two years.
There is no specific curriculum, but students are required to complete a total of 92 hours of driver’s training over a period of at least six months. In order to get a permit, they will need to submit a log to the county showing at least 50 hours of daytime driving and 10 hours of night driving.
“The log shall include the dates the lessons were conducted and details regarding what was included in the lesson,” the bill says.
The bill passed the House on Feb. 17 and is awaiting further review by the Senate.
EastIdahoNews.com was unable to reach Mendive for comment after multiple attempts.
The Transportation Committee held a hearing for the bill last week where members of the public were invited to weigh-in. Dallas Erickson, a driver’s ed instructor for West Jefferson School District 253, is one of several people who spoke against the bill as it’s currently written.
He tells EastIdahoNews.com he’s troubled by how quickly it passed the House because it isn’t specific enough.
“The biggest concern is the safety aspect,” Erickson says, pointing out that parents should be properly vetted. “Parents could essentially have two DUIs on their record and still be able to teach their kids how to drive.”
Erickson would like to see more safety measures put in place before this bill becomes law.
He also feels the bill should require parents to have insurance for their child, and have clearly defined parameters about who is qualified for private instruction.
“Any other state that has a law like this, they have a parameter that says (you have to live) at least 30 miles away (from the nearest public course before you can do it privately),” Erickson explains. “What they’re telling you is that there are no rural districts that offer driver’s ed, but there’s like 45 rural districts (across the state who offer driver’s ed).”
A driver’s ed instructor from Leadore, located in remote Lemhi County, also spoke against the bill at last week’s hearing, according to Erickson.
Data from the Idaho Transportation Department shows there were 220 crashes in 2021 involving a teen driver. That number equates to one out of five crashes in the state and is the highest percentage of teen driving accidents in the last five years.
As a result, Erickson says some lawmakers are suggesting that public driver’s ed courses are not effective, but Erickson disagrees.
“We don’t have very many driver’s ed accidents across the state and that’s what they should be looking at,” he says.
Erickson points to similar legislation in Oregon. In 2019, KATU TV in Portland reported nine out of 10 teen car crashes involved teens who did not take driver’s ed.
“There is better driving behavior, fewer citations and fewer crashes among teenage drivers who take drivers ed and it lasts throughout their adulthood,” Oregon DMV spokesman David House said.
Seventy-three percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers in 2021 happened in rural areas, according to ITD. If HB 133 becomes law, Erickson is worried the number of fatal crashes among teen drivers is only going to increase. He hopes the Senate will take a serious look at how it’s worded and clarify these issues before voting on it.
“There’s a lot of reasons (I’m) against it, but the main reason is safety,” he says. “I told a story in my testimony about a kid who’s a farmer and had been driving forever. He pulled out in front of a loaded semi and if I hadn’t been able to stand on my brake (in the passenger’s side of the driver’s ed car), we would’ve been obliterated. We see that stuff everyday.”
“It hasn’t really been heard the way that it should be,” Erickson adds. “They just slapped in there that parents (can teach their kids how to drive) but they haven’t (considered) what the consequences are.”
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