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New License Law Requires Teens To Take Driver Education Classes

Drivers License -Teen driver
All Illinois teens must take at least six hours of driver education, although it can happen online. Photo: State Farm

A new graduated driver licensing law takes effect in Illinois tomorrow. Illinois's GDL law sets restrictions on young drivers, including when and with whom they can drive. After "graduating" through several time periods and getting more on-road experience, new drivers can eventually obtain a full driver's license. Secretary of State Jesse White said in a press release [PDF] today that the state's GDL has led to a 60 percent drop in "teen driving fatalities" since its 2008 introduction. The new law followed from a years-long editorial campaign from the Chicago Tribune about the high number of teenagers who are killed or injured in car crashes.

Until today, Illinois residents aged 18-20 could apply for, and receive, a driver's license without any formal education beforehand. 16-17 year-olds have always been required to take driver education before receiving a license. Now, all teenagers must take at least six hours of education courses – available in person or online – before applying for a driver's license.

Shockingly, 49 percent of 18-20 year-olds who received driver's licenses in Illinois last year did not take driver education. The new requirement should further reduce the number of teenagers injured or killed in car crashes, and improve young drivers' understanding of traffic laws.

A U.S. Public Interest Research Group study suggested that GDLs contributed to a drop in the number of miles driven by teenagers, and the rate at which teens apply for a driver's license. University of Michigan researchers mention GDLs as one reason why many teens are skipping getting a license, or getting them later.

The six hour education course covers topics like:

    • traffic laws
    • highway signs
    • signals and markings
    • issues commonly associated with motor vehicle accidents, including speed, failure to yield the right-of-way, and texting while driving
    • alcohol and drug awareness

This is a great move by the state legislature to better standardize the knowledge that Illinois drivers bring to the road. Online classes might not be perfect -- but they will usually do a better job than family or friends at addressing safety, whether it's maneuvering among bicyclists, stopping for pedestrians within the crosswalk, or dealing with less-common on-road situations like roundabouts.

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