SIDNEY — For young people getting a driver’s license, Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart reminds them and their families that it should be taken seriously.
Nearly half of those killed in traffic crashes in the U.S. last year were teenage drivers, Lenhart noted during his weekly phone interview.
“I think this is important for parents and grandparents and guardians to understand the dangers of what we are talking about,” Lenhart said. “Teens age 15 to 18 are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash (than adults).”
He pointed out that in 2017, 2,300 teenagers nationwide died in crashes. He said two teens died in fatal crashes in Shelby County and that between drivers and passengers, 82 young people died in Ohio in teenage-driver related crashes last year.
“(Getting a temporary learner’s driving permit) it’s a big deal for (young people). I can remember my own children, now with my grandchild and when I got my permit and driver’s license; that’s a big deal. It’s almost like you’re an adult — almost,” Lenhart said.
Lenhart explained the process of getting a temporary learner’s driving permit for a young person can begin as early as 15 1/2 years old. He said the teenager must provide documents proving Ohio residency, identification of full legal name and date of birth, their Social Security number and legal U.S. presence. Also at the Ohio BMV office, Lenhart said, the applicant will be required to pass a vision exam and written permit test. A young person under the age of 18 years old must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to the BMV when applying. The fee is $22 for a temporary learner’s driving permit.
Once a teenager obtains their learner’s permit, they can go forward for training and practice, Lenhart said, but those who are 15 1/2 must have a parent of guardian with them in the vehicle. Teens who are 16 years old may only drive with a valid licensed driver who is 21 or older, he noted and those under 18 cannot drive between midnight to 6 a.m., unless supervised by a licensed parent or guardian.
“All drivers under the age of 17 will not be permitted to operate a vehicle with more than one person who is not a family member, unless accompanied by a parent, guardian or legal custody. And what that means is that if you are 17, you can’t have five other kids in the car. You gotta have a family member with you,” Lenhart said.
“Permit holders acquiring traffic violations, then you are going to visit the judge and could have more restrictions put on you,” he continued.
The next step, he said, is a permit holder (under 18 years old) must have held their learner’s permit for six months and completed their supervised and certified 24 hours of driving practice, as well as eight hours with driving school.
Permit holders must also further complete 50 hours of driving, 10 of which are at night, Lenhart said. He noted the time involved and process required can help to reassure parents by the end.
“Sometimes I think government doesn’t do things right; they probably did this one right for all the extra training and etc.,” he said. “The majority of accidents and fatals for people 15 to 18 is (caused by) inexperienced drivers; certainly speed is a factor; distraction — and distraction we talk about this all of the time — on the phone or messing with something in the car. And not wearing a seat belt, and the last obvious one, is of some kind of drugs or alcohol.”
Aside from the permit cost, a 16-year-old applicant must pay an additional $24.25 for their actual driver’s license with the cost being pro-rated until age 18, and then obtain car insurance. Lenhart said a young person should expect to pay about $800 a year for liability coverage on a 4- to 5-year-old vehicle.
“The bottom line on this is if your son or daughter, grandchild, is going after a driver’s license, please take this serious. Spend the time with them driving. Point out the weaknesses and certainly point out the seriousness of how many people get hurt or killed by not doing what they are supposed to in this setting,” Lenhart concluded.
The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.