With final passage by the House today, the General Assembly approved legislation sponsored by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi and Sen. Hanna M. Gallo to establish a free educational course for parents of students in driver’s education classes.

Under the legislation (2017-H 5457Aaa, 2017-S 0555Aaa), the course would be made available online and at various times and locations around the state, so parents or guardians will be aware of the laws concerning their teens’ driver’s licenses, and the content of driver’s ed classes. Parental participation would be a requirement for the issuance of a graduated license for a driver under 18, although parents who have already taken the course within five years would not have to take it again to satisfy the requirement for their younger children. The requirement would become effective when the Department of Education approves the online course, but not before Jan. 1, 2018.

The sponsors said the free course would be helpful in ensuring that teens’ parents are well-informed about exactly what privileges and responsibilities come with each stage of Rhode Island’s graduated licenses and the driver’s education process.

“Graduated licenses didn’t exist when most teens’ parents learned to drive. When we were kids, teenagers could just go to driver’s ed, get their permit, and get a full license the day they passed their road test, as soon as their 16th birthday if they planned it well. It’s a much more complex system these days, with rules about when kids can be on the road and with whom. Parents need to know exactly what those rules are so they can be sure their young drivers are following them appropriately,” said Leader Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).

Keeping parents current on driving laws equips them to help their teens become better drivers, the legislators added.

“We received testimony on this bill that our neighbors in Massachusetts, who have a similar parent course, have experienced a significant drop in accident rates among teenage drivers since the course started. Two hours is relatively small investment when it yields real results in keeping your teenager safer behind the wheel,” said Senator Gallo, who chairs the Senate Education Committee.

The State Board of Education would be required to implement the law, and the Community College of Rhode Island would be responsible for approving course content. AAA has indicated it is interested in developing and providing the course at its own expense, which is allowed under the bill. Should AAA cease offering the course, and no other provider step forward to pick it up, the requirement for parents would cease.

The legislation is cosponsored by Sen. Stephen R. Archambault (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Providence, Johnston), Sen. Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton), Rep. Julie A. Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter), Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), Rep. Camille Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) and Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick).

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