MN lawmaker targets teens with stricter driving laws(WDAY TV) - In the wake of several fatal crashes involving teenagers, a Minnesota lawmaker is urging stronger federal driving laws. In 5-days in April, 16 people died on Minnesota roads, most of them teenagers. Now, Senator Amy Klobuchar is introducing legislation to prevent deaths and injuries on the road, all targeting teens.
By: Travis Skonseng, WDAY
Klobuchar is playing a key role in three bills. The ALERT Drivers Act would withhold highway funding for states that don't have texting bans. The STANDUP Act would require graduated licenses. The STARS Act would get more schools involved in traffic safety. We thought we'd see what teenagers think of these proposals.
In a Lake Park classroom sits the youngest of soon to be drivers, most just 14-years old.
“It'd be scary at first, but I'd get used to it.”
“I'm just worried about hitting someone.”
By August, some will get behind the wheel for the first time, most without much experience. So today they learn the rules of the road. Instructor Chris Baxter has been teaching teenagers how to drive for 16 years. He says laws are lax and need to be stricter.
“I show them videos. I tell them I'm going to drill it into your head over and over and over and over again and ultimately it's their decision.”
Baxter says teens do not understand the need to play it safe. Too often, they become distracted, leading to these all too common images of fatal crashes.
“I'm very much in favor of just the one student with a driver under the age of 18 until they turn 18.”
Surprisingly, it's the teens themselves who say something needs to be done to keep them from becoming a statistic.
“I kind of like more passengers, but I can see where it would be distracting because one person could be talking to you and texting at the same time.”
“It's not too safe to text and drive and use your cell phone.”
“We do get distracted a lot by everything.”
Between 2006 and 2008, 118 teens died on Minnesota roads. 577 were seriously injured. North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan says he will co-sponsor the STARS Act..
Not wearing a seat belt is the number one cause of traffic deaths. A Moorhead firefighter is hoping to change that early on. Dan Schoonhoven is teaming with Meritcare to educate young drivers.
He visited students in Lake Park. It's just one of the 20 schools he goes to every year in North Dakota and Minnesota. For one hour, Schoonhoven shares survivor stories, shows pictures of crashes, and demonstrates what happens in a crash with or without a seat belt.
“It looks like it really does affect the kids. That's the whole reason for being here. I try and bring them through the experiences I’ve had in the 25 years I’ve been doing this and show them the reality of not wearing a seatbelt.”
Schoonhoven became involved in this educational effort after a fatal crash 14 years ago. He'll speak next at Northern Cass Friday.