CHEYENNE — An interim legislative committee will consider a proposal that would block teen drivers who have a restricted license from traveling with more than one passenger under the age of 18 who is not a member of their immediate family.
The Wyoming Highway Patrol recommended the proposal last week to the Legislature’s Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee.
Col. John Butler, the administrator of the Highway Patrol, told lawmakers that he supports the change because of the safety risks associated with having multiple passengers with a young driver.
“We are finding some of these individuals are not paying attention to the task at hand,” Butler said. “We want to provide as much safety as possible for these restricted licensed drivers.”
Restricted licenses allow 14- or 15-year-olds to drive on their own as long as they meet certain “hardship” requirements and then follow several driving restrictions. The license is largely designed for teenagers who live on farms or in rural parts of the state.
The current restrictions on such licenses include driving only to certain locations, staying within a 50-mile radius from home and driving only during the day.
Butler noted that a passenger limit is already in place for the intermediate learner’s permit that is issued to 15- and 16-year-olds.
Some lawmakers expressed caution with the Highway Patrol’s proposal because of the strain it could place on rural families.
Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, co-chairman of the committee, said he is worried about unintended consequences. Many rural families depend on restricted license drivers to transport their extended families or neighbors to school, work or other places, he said.
“This is part of life in those rural agriculture communities,” Schiffer said. “You start to get into gray areas real quick when you try to make these things work.”
But Schiffer and the rest of the lawmakers agreed to have legislative staff draft a bill that they will consider during their next meeting in August.
The legislators said they would also examine the hours that restricted license holders can legally drive.
Currently, drivers with restricted licenses can only drive from 5 a.m.-8 p.m. Fifteen-year-olds with the license can drive beyond that period only if they have a licensed adult in their vehicle.
Several of the lawmakers suggested extending the 8 p.m. restriction to 11 p.m.