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Give us your full 50

Monday, June 3, 2013by  Jon Osterberg

With Memorial Day behind us, the summer driving season is underway.
   Teen drivers and their parents will take interest in a recent comment by a National Safety Council official. Noting that Memorial Day marks the start of the socially active summer season for teenagers, John Ulczycki said newly licensed teens crash their cars primarily because of inexperience.
   "A lot of people think it’s a reflection of the kids’ behavior,” Ulczycki said. “I tend to think of it as a reflection of how much practice they got driving.”
   The buck for sufficient practice time stops with parents and guardians.
   Teens cannot simply walk into a licensing office, vouch for their own ample experience, and get a license. A parent or guardian must sign the application, testifying that the driver meets the legal minimum time behind the wheel.
   Washington’s intermediate license law requires, among other things, for teen drivers to “complete at least 50 hours of driving practice (including 10 hours at night) with someone who’s been licensed for five years or more.” Read the requirement here.
   Oregon’s graduated license law also requires supervised driving, “50 hours and an ODOT-approved traffic safety education course. You must present the original course completion card when you apply.” Without the card, Oregon requires 100 hours behind the wheel accompanied by a driver age 21 or older. See Oregon’s law here.
   Equally important, perhaps more so, is for parents to enforce the part of the law that restricts beginning teen drivers from having teen passengers, who can be a huge distraction.
   When I talk to students and parents about teen driving, I acknowledge it’s a bit of a paradox: Teens can’t gain experience without driving, yet teens can’t drive until they have experience. The only way to gain skill is through experience. And beginning drivers have a tough challenge. Unlike beginning skiers, who can hone their skills on gentle bunny slopes, beginning drivers navigate the same roads and the same vibrant, complex traffic as seasoned motorists.
   The safeguard, and what ensures that teens gain skills safely, is the in-car presence of an adult driving tutor, and the absence of teenage passengers. Parents must take that responsibility seriously and ensure sufficient time and practice, which produces skilled and prudent young drivers.
   Fifty hours. Without distractions. Make it happen, and make it fruitful.

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