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Idaho bill that would allow parents to teach their kids drivers ed moves to senate committee

House Bill 133 is intended to help families in rural parts of the state with no driving schools nearby -- however, the proposed law would apply to the whole state.

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho parents could soon be their own kids official driving instructor behind House Bill 133 (HB133) sponsored by Rep. Ron Mendive (R-Coeur d'Alene).

The bill amends current Idaho law already outlining the process for student drivers to acquire their driver’s license. Under this proposed law change, student drivers, "may receive driver's training instruction from a qualifying parent or legal guardian."

The bill passed the House floor and now resides in the Senate Transportation Committee.

Qualifying parents must be at least 21 years old without any license suspension in the last two years. The bill - formally known as House Bill 86 (HB86) - previously allowed other family members 21 years and older to qualify as an instructor.

Rep. Mendive asked House Speaker Mike Moyle (R-Star) to return HB86 to committee for amendments. The bills new language – officially called HB133 - removes other family members from qualification.

All student drivers taught by parents would still have to log at least 50 hours of supervised driving - 10 of which at night - and pass all state assessment requirements for a license.

The bill intends to ease the burden of rural Idaho families that do not live near a driving school, according to the bill’s Statement of Purpose; however, the bill’s language applies to all Idahoans.

Driving instructors said it could be dangerous.

The proposed law concerns Phillips Driving School (PDS) in Meridian. PDS contracts with the Nampa and Kuna school districts; they serve between 150-200 driving students each month, according to PDS owner Tonya Haustveit.

"If you are in a town of 5,000 people and you don't have access to drivers ed, I get that. That is hard. That is frustrating. And if that is the case, we need to tailor it by county," Hausveit said.

The first 6 hours in a car the most important for new drivers, Haustveit said. If a parent in an urban area elects to teach their own child through those first six hours, the consequences could be dangerous.

PDS instructors have to use their brake from the passenger seat at some point with nearly every student during this initial period.

"How do parents have the capability - without having a brake or a mirror in their car, or the signage on their car - to help their student perform those tasks," Haustveit said.

PDS carries a $1 million insurance policy by law, according to Haustveit. The bill has no additional insurance requirements for parents electing to teach drivers ed to their own kids.

"Yes, there are great parents and there will be parents who can definitely teach kids to drive. I am not disagreeing with that. But what about the parents who can't? What are we doing with those parents? And we don't know which ones those are," Haustveit said. "We have parents where we have to fail a student and they're irate with us. And they're like, 'Just pass him. Just pass him. He'll be fine. I need a driver.'"

The bill also received pushback from a rural driving instructor. Dean Erickson works at the West Jefferson School District outside Idaho Falls; he doubles as the districts driving instructor. He argues 14.5 years old is too young for parent-taught driving students - the current minimum age to receive an Idaho learner’s permit.

"They're pretty immature to understand the responsibility of driving," Erickson said. "Kids that mistake the gas pedal for the brake when slowing down. We are able to counter act that with our brake."

Erickson suggested Idaho lawmakers amend the bill to require parent-taught drivers clearly mark their cars as 'student drivers.'

"It's not like you can't go on Amazon and buy a placard for 25 bucks that says 'student driver.' We're not requiring that in the bill for the parents so that other vehicles can go, 'there is a student driver there.' It's not the difficult to add those things, but we're not doing that," Erickson said.

Rep. Mendive suggested parent-taught students replace the traditional drivers ed classroom time with online instruction from the Idaho Digital Learning Alliance (IDLA). The IDLA program costs $75 and is accredited by the state and federal government, according to Rep. Mendive. Erickson agrees this is a good program that should be utilized; however, the bill's language does not require any such program replaces driving school classroom instruction.

Rep. Mendive technically introduced HB133 Monday due to the language amendments. The bill remains in the House Transportation and Defense Committee after previously making it to the House Floor in the form of HB86.

Erickson plans to drive 5 hours to Boise to testify in person before the Senate Transportation Committee on HB133.

Haustveit does not expect this proposed law to impact her business. She expects most families to still choose an official driving school in urban parts of the state.

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