New permit requirements for North Dakota teen drivers

One of the most important things in a teenager’s life (or so they will tell you) is the obtaining of that small piece of 3” x 2” plastic laminate known as the driver’s license.  I often get bombarded with questions about North Dakota law and teen driving issues.  Obtaining a driver’s license is one of those issues brought up quite frequently at Ben Franklin, as a great deal of my 8th graders are beginning their quest to become a motorist on the streets and highways of North Dakota. 

First, let’s go over the new changes in the law.  House Bill 1256 is the bill passed into legislation in 2011 and is now in effect. Here are the changes: HB 1256 changed existing state law to make teenagers wait to drive without supervision until they are 15, and would also forbid them from using a cell phone while driving until they are 18. This bill also requires new teen drivers to get at least 50 hours of supervised driving experience in various conditions before they could drive without an adult.

Here are the requirements for getting a permit in ND: (Source: NDDOT Rules of the Road)

Instruction permits allow you to legally practice driving. They are valid for up to one year or the “duration of stay” date, whichever is less, if an immigration document is presented for proof of identity. Any time you operate with an instruction permit, a person with a valid license for the class of vehicle being driven, who is at least 18 years of age and has had at least three years of driving experience, must ride in the seat beside you. An individual other than the supervising driver and the permit holder may not be in the front seat unless the vehicle has only a front seat, in which case, the supervising driver must be seated next to the permit holder.

To receive a permit, you must first pass the written examination and the visual screen test. All applicants must be at least 14 years of age.

  • Those under 18 years of age must have parent or legal guardian approval and sponsorship. When a legal guardian signs, guardianship papers must be presented.
  • Individuals who are 14 or 15 years old must hold the instruction permit for 12 months or to the age of 16, whichever comes first; but no less than 6 months prior to completing the road test for an operator’s license.
  • Individuals who are 16 or 17 must hold the instruction permit for 6 months or to the age of 18, whichever comes first, prior to completing the road test for an operator’s license.
  • Individuals under 16 must complete a minimum of 50 hours of supervised practice driving in variable conditions. Your parent/legal guardian must then accompany you to the test site on the day of your road test and sign that you have completed this requirement.
  • NOTE: This is in addition to the formal driver’s education requirement.

So why did this happen?  Statistics indicated that due to a sharp rise in fatalities and injury accidents involving teen drivers, something needed to change. Consider these statistics:

  • From 2001-2009, North Dakota has lost 173 teens in motor vehicle crashes. In 2009, there were 16 fatal teen driver crashes and 545 teen driver injury crashes.
  • 37.5% of teen driver fatalities occurred on a Friday in North Dakota.
  • In North Dakota, the highest number of teen driver crashes occurred in December.
  • According to AAA, teen drivers in North Dakota are involved in a crash every 2.5 hours.
  • “Speed/Too Fast for Conditions” and “Attention Distracted” are the top two reasons cited by law enforcement in North Dakota for teen crashes.

(Source: www.ndteendrivers.com)

As prom season signals the end of the school year, forthcoming graduations, and the onset of summer, we need to be aware that the privilege to drive in our state should be taken very seriously. Your child is behind the wheel of a 4,000-lb. missile traveling most times between 25 and 65 miles an hour.  Talk to your teen about good driving habits. Keep the distractions in the car to a minimum, and always use seatbelts. For more information on teen driving, visit www.ndteendrivers.com.

You can also read and/or download the DOT’s Rules of the Road publication for more information on North Dakota driving rules. Drive safe.

(Dale Stoll is the School Resource Officer for Ben Franklin Middle School. He can be reached at stolld@fargo.k12.nd.us)