Dorinda Padgett doesn’t want Missourians to go through what happened to her and her husband.
Padgett, a 72-year-old retired administrative assistant from Lee’s Summit, lost her husband, Larry, in 2013. He was struck and killed while riding his motorcycle when a 17-year-old ran a stop sign.
A ticket didn’t stop the young man from driving, Padgett said, and he and his family prolonged the outcome until 2016. The driver was able to keep driving in the meanwhile, she added.
Young Missouri drivers accused of unlawful driving could lose their licenses under a bill Padgett supported Tuesday morning before the House Committee on Crime Prevention and Public Safety.
“There are teens who — just being normal teens — feel bulletproof and empowered at being able to drive a car solo, having a measure of new independence, and there are also teens who have not been impressed upon the gravity of the privilege they have,” Padgett told lawmakers. “Teens and other drivers on the road would be safer if teens were to take their lumps and learn their lessons early on in the learning curve.”
Rep. Galen Higdon, R-St. Joseph, proposes prohibiting the Department of Revenue from issuing licenses to any drivers between the ages of 16 and 18 who are cited for a “high-risk driving offense.”
Any existing intermediate licenses would be suspended or revoked if the teenage license-holder is cited for a “high-risk” offense.
The driving crimes in question include speeding more than 10 miles per hour above the posted limit; leaving the scene of an accident; careless and imprudent driving; and endangering a highway worker or emergency responder.
Higdon said he intended to add restrictions to punish reckless drivers who benefit from plea deals and have significant offenses reduced to minor infractions.
The bill does not require a teenage driver be convicted before losing their license.
Instead, police officers, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers who cite a teen driver for a “high-risk” offense would be required to file a report with the Department of Revenue.
The Department of Revenue would suspend or revoke a person’s license based on the citation and law enforcement report, and the state’s determination — independent of any criminal proceedings — on that basis would be “final unless a hearing is requested and held.”
Higdon told the News-Leader his bill preserves due process for teens because of the administrative hearing option.
Higdon acknowledged that his current bill “unfortunately” increases the bureaucratic strength of the revenue department and told the News-Leader he planned to “modify this considerably,” in part to consider concerns from the committee.
Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, questioned why Higdon wanted to punish teenagers more than adults for the same offense. “That’s problematic, isn’t it?”
Higdon didn’t waver.
“You’ve got young drivers that are influenceable,” Higdon said, “and the more they get away with, the more they want to do. My intent is to correct that behavior by simply letting them know that their action is not going to go unpunished, even though Mom and Daddy, or Aunt and Uncle, or Grandma and Grandpa pay a ton of money to get the charges reduced — and then the young individual is back out on the street, burning the tires and acting a fool.”
Rep. Justin Hill, R-Lake St. Louis, said the proposal had merit but predicted a “significant impact on insurance premiums” if Higdon’s bill became law.
“Children already are expensive,” Hill said. “Insurance companies already know they’re risk-takers.”
Mark Siettmann, the Department of Revenue’s legislative liaison, emphasized that the department wanted to work with Higdon on the bill.
But adding several thousands of young drivers per year into an administrative process “would overburden the department” and cost a lot of money, Siettmann said.
By Will Schmitt | Springfield News-Leader