Bills in Hawaii limit under-18 licenses, lessen over-18 commercial restrictions

| Thursday, April 28, 2005

A pair of bills in the Hawaiian legislature could soon alter the way under-21 drivers can operate on the road.

The first bill, SB74, would lower the minimum age from 21 to 18 for a person to receive a commercial driver’s license. However, the bill also specifies that drivers over 18 but under 21 would not be allowed to drive school buses, haul hazardous materials or operate tractor-trailers.

The bill, which is currently awaiting approval by Gov. Linda Lingle, has seen intense lobbying by the state’s transportation industry, especially in the charter and tour bus sector, which supports the younger age, according to the Honolulu Advertiser. Opponents of the bill include the state Department of Transportation, which is concerned about the safety of the younger drivers and their passengers.

According to the Advertiser, federal policy allows for 18-year-old intrastate commercial drivers. Thirty-eight other states already allow the younger drivers behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle.

The second bill, however, sends younger passenger vehicle operators’ driving rights in the opposite direction.

Senate Bill 428 would create a three-stage, graduated licensing program in the state for drivers under the age of 18. The bill also requires the younger drivers to be accompanied by a parent or guardian between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Instead of allowing teens to obtain instructional permits at 15½ and full licenses at 16, the proposed law would create a restricted, provisional license for drivers between the ages of 16 and 18. These drivers would also be limited to one unrelated passenger in the car, unless a parent or guardian is with them, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported.

The bill is currently in committee before both the House and the Senate, but is expected to be approved by both and move to the governor’s desk this week, according to the Star-Bulletin.

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