Highway safety group critical of Wyoming young driver laws - KOTA Territory News

Highway safety group critical of Wyoming young driver laws

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Getting a driver's license is a rite of passage for most teenagers.

"It was so exciting for me," said 16-year-old Katelynn Brooks, who got her graduated driver's license this week.

Katelynn and other Sheridan High School students take 30 hours of driver safety classes.

"We study the safety components of driving, such as seat belt, aggressive driving, reckless driving, texting, distractions, inattention," said instructor Helen Grutkowski.

The students also drive 15 hours with an instructor before logging 50 hours with parents on a learner's permit, which they can get at 14 years of age.

"The students will get a graduated driver's license at 16. if they took drivers education, then they will get their full privileges at 16-and-a-half," said Grutkowski.

An Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety study shows Wyoming doesn't meet four of seven recommended guidelines. The three provisions of its graduated driver licensing program that Wyoming meets includes 30-50 hours of supervised driving, cell phone use restriction, and a passenger restriction.

The other four include a nighttime driving restriction, a minimum age of 16 for a learner's permit, a six month holding period between first getting a learner's permit and a full license, and a minimum age of 18 for a full license.

But Wyoming's teens are happy with the current age limits.

"I am so grateful for it. It really helps me out and my family out. I can take my brothers places," said Katelynn.

Grutkowski believes kids have the ability to drive well at 16, but are more prone to slip into bad habits.

"I think our age limits are right. We've got kids though, that once other kids start getting in the car with them, their driving behavior changes drastically. It's that teenage frontal lobe just telling them to be more impulsive," said Grutkowski.

But that's not the case with all kids.

"It's a big responsibility. You don't want to hurt anyone while you're on the road and I still am very cautious when I drive," said Katelynn.

The report is even more critical of Nebraska and South Dakota laws, saying both states fail to meet six of its seven basic guidelines for teenage drivers. Of the seven, Nebraska only has the six month holding period, and South Dakota only has the night time driving restriction provision.

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