Driving age drops, accompaniment period lengthens

As of July 1, students will be able to start driving lessons at 16-and-a-half, and at 16 and nine months they can take their driving test.

student driver 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
student driver 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The Knesset Economic Affairs Committee approved on Monday Transportation Ministry plans to institute a new graduated driver’s license program that pushes the driving age forward, but extends the period in which new drivers must be accompanied by an experienced driver.
As of July 1, students will be able to start driving lessons at 16-and-a-half, and at 16 and nine months they can take their driving test, as opposed to the current minimum age of 17.
Despite this ability to operate a vehicle at a younger age, drivers will need to be accompanied by an experienced driver for their first six months on the road, the ministry added.
Initiated by Transportation Minister Israel Katz, the new program is designed to reduce car accidents, the office said.
The rule will apply to all new drivers under age 24, and falls under Section 104 of the Traffic Ordinance, the Economic Affairs Committee added.
“The amendment will upgrade and improve the experience of new drivers on the road,” said MK Avishay Braverman (Labor), chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee.
Ronen Moskovitz, head of the National Road Safety Authority, emphasized that at present only three months accompanied driving are required and that it is insufficient.
According to data gathered by the authority, accidents rise after this period.
Extending the escort period is therefore crucial.
The authority is in the process of creating a pool of volunteer experienced drivers who will be able to work with young drivers who would otherwise have no one to escort them, he said. The database of volunteers is to be launched within two months.
At the conclusion of this mandatory period, the driver must submit a signed statement, co-signed by the driving escort, guaranteeing that they have completed 50 hours of accompanied driving, the ministry explained.
Following the receipt of this statement, the Transportation Ministry will issue the new driver a permanent plastic license.
The accompaniment period requires 50 hours of driving, of which 20 must be in urban areas, 15 must be in interurban areas and 15 must be between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Divided into two sections, this period will feature three months during which the driver must be accompanied both day and night and a second three months during which he or she must only be escorted at night, the ministry said.
“Data shows that a much higher percentage of young people who drive without accompaniment are involved in road accidents than those who go through an escort period,” Katz said, stressing the positive impact the program will have on new drivers.
As the program will affect all drivers getting their licenses on or after July 1, the Transportation Ministry and the National Road Safety Authority will begin an extensive advertising campaign in May using television, radio, billboards and Internet, the ministry said.
Deputy Transportation Minister MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud-Beytenu), stressed how important it is to gain road experience, particularly at night.
Transportation Ministry director-general Uzi Yitzhaki reiterated the importance of only allowing experienced drivers on the road solo.
“Under the framework of the campaign ‘Gain experience – get a license,’ we will present all the information to the public and it will already appear on the document the students get after passing the driving test,” Yitzhaki said.
Meanwhile, anyone who has gone through a driving training course in the IDF will be exempt from the accompaniment program, the committee added.