Wisconsin Assembly passes bill allowing drivers to get instruction permit at age 15

Drivers with their temps would get a full year of experience before getting probationary driver's license

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The Wisconsin State Assembly unanimously approved a bill that allows young people to get their instruction permit when they turn 15.

Under current law, teens must wait until they are 15 and a half.

It’s only six months, but AAA Wisconsin says that time will make everyone on the road safer.

You can only improve your driving with more experience so that practice makes perfect.

“Ideally, we want teens to experience as many different scenarios while they’re driving while they’re being coached by a parent or instructor,” AAA Wisconsin director of public affairs Nick Jarmusz said.

The bill passed by the Wisconsin State Assembly allows drivers to get their temps at 15 years old instead of 15 and a half. That means they could have up to a full year of practice before they get their driver’s license.

“It extends the amount of practice time a novice driver can get,” Jarmusz said.

Jarmusz says he supports the bill, and that driving more with a parent helps reduce car crashes.

“It’s not zero, but it’s significantly lower than when they’re driving on their own,” he said.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation says drivers between ages 16-19 are more likely to be in an accident than any other age group. Data shows about five percent of the state’s drivers were between 16-19 years old in 2012, but accounted for about 11 percent of drivers in crashes.

“If they have six months more of practice time, hopefully they can be maybe a little bit safer driver at age 16,” La Crosse County circuit court Judge Todd Bjerke said.

Bjerke says traffic cases involve young people driving recklessly.

“When they’re young like that, they get extra points because they’re on a provisional license,” Bjerke said. “So, they really need to show up and learn from that experience.”

Bjerke says the bill could be good if mom and/or dads parent their kids well.

“As long as the parents are with them, and are making sure they’re safe when they drive, maybe it’ll be a good bill,” Bjerke said.

Advice Jarmusz hopes drivers and parents take to heart.

“The more experience that you can provide your teen before they head out on their own to drive solo, the safer they and everyone else sharing the road with them will be,” Jarmusz said.

The bill also increases the amount of required behind the wheel driving hours from 30 to 50 hours.

Drivers still have to be at least 16 if they want to get their probationary license.

The bill now heads to Governor Tony Evers’ desk.