WA bill hopes to make roads safer by requiring Drivers Ed

Feb 13, 2023, 2:01 PM
Drivers Ed...
(AP Photo/LM Otero, File)
(AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

The Washington Legislature passed Senate Bill 5583 — which would require young people (between ages 18 and 22) to complete a full driver training course before being issued a license — out of committee last week.

According to most recent traffic data, people who get their license at age 18 are 50% more likely to get into a collision in the first year of driving.

“When you look at the data, there are a large number of young people, ages 18 to 25, that have not gone through Drivers Ed, or any of that,” Republican Senator Curtis told KIRO Newsradio. “And when you compare those drivers that were 16 to 18 that have gone through a Drivers Ed course, you find that their driving records are much better than those that have not gone through a driving course.

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“In fact, those that are 18 to 25 have a substantial number of accidents, sometimes severe accidents,” Curtis continued. “Their driving record is not nearly as good as those that have gone through a driving safety course.”

Currently, the law requires 16- and 17-year-old teens to take a drivers’ education course before issuing a license. But with some driving schools costing upwards of $500, certain low-income families sometimes wait to turn 18 before attaining the right of passage, according to a 2020 survey from the state’s safety commission.

In response, the bill would also require the establishment of a driver training education voucher program for low-income novice drivers and a grant program for schools to initiate or reinitiate traffic safety education programs. An increase in the driver’s license examination and driver’s instruction permit fees is intended to fund these programs.

“The vouchers will come out of the transportation budget. So it doesn’t affect the operating budget. And so we need to get it pulled from rules [committee],” Curtis said. “I happen to sit on that committee, and we get it to rules and then get it to the floor for a vote. I think all those things are doable. I do believe that we’ll pass this bill off the Senate floor, and then, we will go over and work the bill over in the house to see if we can get it through the house and on to the governor.”

He claimed that when young drivers take a safety class, they become better drivers.

“So we’re trying to address the large number of accidents that have occurred in this age group and do it in a way that hopefully will make them better and safer drivers not only for them but for all of our society,” Curtis said. “And that’s what this bill is trying to do.”

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For those over the age of 22 (and under the age of 25), the bill would still require those drivers to complete a condensed traffic safety education course or a self-paced, online course equivalent before issuance of a driver’s license.

“And those accidents that we talked about are not always single-car accidents. They involve another member or another driver in our society,” Curtis said. “So if we can make these young people better and substantially reduce the number of accidents that incur, it makes driving on our roads much safer for all Washingtonians. And I think that’s the purpose of this bill.”

Follow Micki Gamez on Twitter or email her here 

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WA bill hopes to make roads safer by requiring Drivers Ed