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Sweet 14

April 25, 2011 by Hailey Goplen

I was perusing the Inforum this morning, and stumbled on an article about the new driving law being passed in North Dakota beginning January 1st. This law would require drivers under the age of 16 to hold onto their permit status for an entire year before receiving their license. Wait, what? Drivers UNDER THE AGE of 16? How is that even possible?

Back in Maryland, you have to have a learners permit for 6 months before you can receive a license. You have to complete 60 hours of practice driving before you can get your license. (60 hours with someone over 21=my mom screaming at me and pumping her foot at an imaginary pedal for 60 grueling hours). To receive your license, you have to be at least 16 and 3 months. That means on your 16th birthday, no trip to the DMV followed by a celebratory cruise around town with your closest friends. You also are not allowed to talk on your cell phone until you’re 18, and actually, I’m pretty sure you aren’t allowed to talk on your cell phone period in Maryland anymore. Finally, once you receive your license, you have to make it 18 consecutive months with no moving violations before your provisional license status is removed and you can drive past midnight.

Now, I knew that the drivers license age in ND was low. When I moved here, my boyfriend’s 13 year old cousin was chatting about how it was almost time for her to get her permit. When I laughed and said 15 is still a long way off, I was soon corrected. I understand that out on the farms, parents need children to drive a little sooner, but his cousin is from Bismarck. Whats the reason there?

I think I am going to make myself feel very much like my mother with this comment, but I’m sorry, you are just not mature enough to drive at 14 and I fully support this law change. Heck, I don’t think I was even mature enough to drive at 16 (please don’t tell my mom that I admitted that). I understand some of the points brought up by the relieved 14 1/2 year old quoted in the article that secured his license before the law was passed. Yes, it is difficult having your parents drive you around everywhere. Yes, you do feel a greater sense of freedom when you don’t have a parent next to you. But I’m sorry, 14… seriously? 14? On this one ND, I fully support your decision.

As far as the new law that requires you to be 18 before you can talk on the phone while driving, I revert back to my teenage self when I say: DUH! Now, I consider myself a very responsible and attentive driver, and I have to admit that I jumped for joy a bit when I moved back to a state that allowed me to talk on my phone while driving at all… but is it the safest thing to do while you’re behind the wheel? Probably not. Now take a teenager, who just learned to drive, add a few friends yapping in the back seat, and give them a cell phone– disaster.

So I’m sorry those of you that will be affected by this law, boyfriend’s cousin included. I’m sorry that you will now have to wait until you’re 15.. gasp.. maybe even 16 before you can fly solo behind the wheel. But all in all you have to put it in perspective. Almost anywhere else in the country and you would have to be 16 or older. And while my 16 year old self would hate me for saying this, and definitely roll her eyes, just because there is less traffic in North Dakota compared to living outside of Washington DC does not make you a more mature individual.

So good job, ND. A thumbs up for your new law. After Jan. 1st I can breath a little easier out on the open road, and probably call someone on the phone to chat about it.

To check out the full article:


  1. Cathy says:

    I totally agree with Marit. We often went to ‘the lake’ :) and I was driving a 3-wheeler at age 7 by myself and I grew up in Grand Forks so there was no need for me to get my license early, but I sure did at the age of 14. I was also cutting the grass at that age on a riding lawn mower, shoveling snow, and running a snow blower. My husband was working on the farm and driving a $200,000 tractor at age 9, so parents didn’t see a problem with us driving a car. I totally see how this seems weird to an outsider, but that is the way of life in ND! Before he was driving a tractor I can guarantee that he was driving pickup trucks to and from the farm running errands for his Dad and Grandpa (the days before cell phones) to fix farm equip. and such :).

  2. Marit says:

    I am proud to say I got my license when I was 14. One of the youngest in my class. I also stayed accident and ticket free till I was at least 18. There are two main differences between North Dakota and the rest of the country. First is the experience level of drivers and the second is public transportation. Of those kids getting their licenses when they are 14, most are farm kids or kids who have been borrowing their parent’s car for years. I had been driving a four-wheeler and borrowing my dad’s truck for trips to the post office or to pick up milk by the time I was 14. As for transportation, if I had volleyball practice or a game or band practice or whatever else before I was 14, someone had to drive and pick me up. With two parents that worked full time this is often difficult if not impossible to arrange. Those kids in Maryland or Minnesota, they all have buses or trains or cabs to take them places. I think it’s too bad that we are succumbing other state’s expectations on what is the norm.

  3. Kyle S says:

    This is the one of the things I hate about where my state is going. I have lived in North Dakota for 24 years and dont want to me anywhere else. The thing is that we are not like the rest of the country and we should do what is right for our state and not what the rest of the country is doing. I do not see anything wrong with people getting their license at 15. I think if you want to put restrictions on cell phone use or passengers, even though there all ready is, that is fine with me but dont change it because the rest of the country is doing it. WE ARE NOT THE REST OF THE COUNTRY PERIOD.

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