Graduated Licenses Could Mean Cheaper Car Insurance for Hawaii Residents

April 11, 2005

Hawaii residents could face lower car insurance rates if a proposed law requiring graduated licenses for teenagers is successful in bringing down the number of accidents among young drivers.

Members of the Senate Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee passed an amended version of the bill April 8.

“So it seems to me that the insurance industry should weigh in on this as opposed to being a benign profiteer standing back and saying we support this 100 percent, knowing that the costs … in terms of accidents, are likely to decrease,” said Committee Vice Chairman Clayton Hee, (D-Kahuku-Kaneohe), who pushed for an amendment tying insurance premium rollbacks to the success of graduated licenses.

That amendment could not be included in the body of the bill because the bill’s title specifically refers to “licensing” not “insurance.”

Under the bill, drivers under age 18 would need to be accompanied by a licensed parent or guardian when driving between 11 p.m. and five a.m., with a few exceptions.

Under the version passed by the committee, the state Department of Transportation and Department of Health would issue annual reports on accident rates among teen drivers over three years to show whether the new law has helped keep them safer.

If it has, a committee report accompanying the bill suggests that a study be completed to determine whether insurance companies would need to rollback their premiums. If it hasn’t, the program would simply end.

Both Sens. Paul Whalen, (R-Milolii-Waimea), and J. Kalani English voted against the measure.

Teens on rural Lanai and Molokai already have a tough time getting their licenses, said English, (D-East Maui-Lanai-Molokai).

Since 2001, Hawaii teenagers under 18 are required to complete a driver’s education program to get their driver’s licenses. The minimum age to get a learner’s permit is 151/2 and the minimum age to get a driver’s license is 16 – but only after taking driver’s ed taught by an instructor certified by the state.

But on Lanai, there is no one to teach driver’s ed, so therefore students can’t get their licenses before they turn 18, English said.

“We have various, various problems that combine with this to make it next to impossible,” said English, who suggested exempting Molokai and Lanai from the proposed law.

While not including the exemption, Committee Chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa, (D-Nanakuli-Makua), said English’s concerns for rural residents would also be included in the committee report.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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