For new drivers, licenses will now come with more limits

Mary Musilek

Car crashes are the number one killer of Minnesota teens, but with new laws and restrictions for teenage drivers, the state hopes to minimize the number of car-related deaths.

 “Minnesota has one of the highest rates of teen driver fatalities in the country,” said State Representative Steve Simon.

Effective August 1, the new “graduated driver’s license (GDL)” laws will be put into action. The GDL law states that for the first six months, newly licensed drivers will be allowed only one passenger under the age of 20, unless accompanied by a parent of guardian. This does not include members of the driver’s immediate family.

For the second six months, drivers will only be allowed three passengers under the age of twenty.   These new laws were encouraged by Minnesota statistics as well as by the improvement other states have seen by using these laws, said Simon. 

Most states do have some sort of restriction on new drivers, and vSimon said that “we thought a change in that direction would make sense for Minnesota.”

“The main consequence is suspension or revocation of the driver’s license,” said Simon. Along with suspension of the license, a steep fine is generally issued, said Simon.

“A police officer would have discretion of pulling over a driver who looks to be sixteen years old and who has more teen passengers than the allowable limit,” said Simon. Officers do not need any other reasons to pull someone over other than suspecting that the driver is a new driver breaking the rules.

Along with passenger limitations, there is also a new law limiting teenage driving hours. New drivers will not be allowed to drive from midnight to 5a.m. for the first six months of licensure. Exemptions from the rule include driving between work and home, driving with a licensed driver over age 25, driving home from a school-sponsored event that does not have transportation, and driving for employment reasons, said Simon.

A July 24 news release from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety also states new restrictions for teens involving cell phone use while driving. It is now illegal for drivers under the age of 18 to talk on the phone while driving, even with a hands-free headset. Also, composing, sending, and reading of text messages are illegal while driving.

Although many argue that having these laws eliminates car pool opportunities, the state believes that safety is more  important and that is why they made these decisions. “I’ve received a lot of contact from parents who are grateful that we passed the GDL law,” said Simon.