The response to new Kansas driving laws caused waves of teens to swarm Departments of Motor Vehicles across the state last month. Long lines caused many to wait outside in cold winter weather. Mobs of young people, often armed with license books, filled Kansas DMVs in hopes of avoiding the new driving laws that went into effect on the first of the year.
These laws, designed to limit distractions for new drivers, place restrictions on teen drivers and push back the age one can get a full license from 16 to 16-and-a-half. Young drivers can surpass the laws if they have any type of driving permit before Jan. 1.
Prairie Village Police Officer Brady Sullivan believes the reasoning behind the new restrictions is sound.
“Teen driving, as it always has been, is much more dangerous than it is in other age groups,” Sullivan said. “The point [of the new restrictions] is to minimize distractions to minimize traffic crashes.”
As of Jan. 1, the laws restricted cell phone usage for teens younger than 16-and-a-half, except in emergencies. Other new restrictions include prohibiting 16-year-olds from driving between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. for the first six months, except for work or school activities. Also for the first six months, a driver can only carry one passenger under the age of 19 outside of their immediate family.
The group most affected by these restrictions is ninth graders. Freshman Collin Jones, believes it is necessary to place these restrictions on young drivers.
“Teens often think they’ll never get in a wreck, but it’s always a possibility,” Jones said. “I think when you’re driving by yourself, you always make better decisions.”
However, other students, like freshman Alex Dellet, oppose the laws.
“It sucks if you’ve been waiting and waiting to turn 16 and then learn you have to wait even longer,” Dellet said. “I mean, what’s the point of a sweet-sixteen birthday?”
Sullivan believes parents play a key role in the success of these restrictions.
“The laws are more confusing than past restrictions,” Sullivan said. “[Parents] need to learn the laws and educate teens about them.”
Assistant Principal John McKinney said he wants to see East help in this area. He believes that by teaming up with the Prairie Village Police Department, East can educate parents about the laws, which he thinks were passed to get rid of distractions.
These distractions, which McKinney argues are far more numerous than in the past, include cell phones, iPods and GPS systems. When it comes to eliminating these items from cars, he backs up the new laws 100 percent.
“Talking on the phone is a distraction, but texting takes it to another level,” McKinney said.
Still supporting the restrictions, Sullivan would have liked to see the cell phone policy taken in a somewhat of “all or nothing” direction.
“In my opinion, [the laws restricting cell phones] should be for everybody or nobody,” Sullivan said. “Cell phones are just as distracting for someone from my age group as they are for teens.”
Sullivan explained that the these laws act as secondary violations. If someone gets pulled over for speeding or running a red light, the officer can then determine if the driver is of proper age. However, Sullivan stresses, the police reserve the right to pull someone over who they suspect to be breaking these restrictions.