Watching countless “virtual” driving errors by teenagers on a state-of-the-art video simulator has convinced one Valley couple of the need for stricter driver’s license requirements for novices.
“Young drivers have that invincibility factor, and when you do, that’s when you mess up,” said Maria Wojtczak, who co-owns Driving MBA, a driving school in north Scottsdale, with her husband, Richard.
Two proposed bills in the state Legislature would limit the number of nighttime hours a teen can drive and the number of passengers a teen can have in the car in the first year of having a license. One of the bills also would increase the number of required road instructional time for novice drivers from 25 to 30 hours.
With crashes still the leading cause of death nationally among 16- to 19-year-olds, the bills are getting attention from those who study the driving habits of youngsters.
“We support this because of the effect it would have on first-time drivers,” said Richard Fimbres, director for the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. “How many times do we read the newspapers and see a story about a teen dying in a crash because they’re not buckled up or they’re driving at a high rate of speed?”
Under current law, learners’ permits are available at 15 years, seven months old.
Driver’s licenses can be obtained at age 16 if the driver completes at least six hours of road driving time with an accredited driver’s education program. As an alternative, a parent or guardian can sign an affidavit that the teen has driven under the adult’s supervision for at least 25 hours.
Scott Meigh, a driving instructor at Desert Driving School in Cave Creek, agreed that the proposed requirements to obtain a license are a good start and could be even tougher.
Rebecca Slegers, a 16-yearold sophomore at Notre Dame Preparatory High School in Scottsdale, completed eight hours of simulation driving last week on Driving MBA’s simulators, which display fastchanging road conditions in computer-generated traffic. Vehicles pull out of side streets in front of the driver during a rainstorm. Unexpected tire blowouts spin the car out of control.
“It’s not a safe world out there on the road,” said Slegers. “This has made me aware of and expect some of the things that can happen while you’re driving. I think I’m ready now.”