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Change the Law to Permit Disabled Minors in Indiana to Get Their License

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As an almost-sixteen-year-old, driving a car has been a highly important goal in my recent life. I have not only held a fascination with the skill needed to get behind the wheel, but I have wished to be independent in my teenage years and be able to drive myself to school and a job I now have.

The majority of able-bodied minors who have passed their learner's permit test and complete their 50 hours of training will proceed to get their license at sixteen years and three months. However, those with rare, impeding disabilities who must adapt a motor vehicle to be able to use it have it very different. The same vehicle has to be used each time, and there are very few qualified trainers in the state of Indiana who can teach people like me how to operate a car.

I have TAR Syndrome, a disability primarily characterized by short arms, so I must go through a vehicle modification process myself. At a driving evaluation appointment in November 2016, my mother and I were told that in order to complete driving training just like everyone else my age (under 18), 10 of the 50 hours of practice would have to be after dark. However, this poses a major problem: because there are so few driving trainers in Indiana, and because those trainers have families and other priorities to attend to, no one would like to train at night for 10 hours.

This means that, for any disabled minor in Indiana who would like to get their license, they will only be able to finish daytime driving—but not nighttime driving, as because stated above, no one wants to train when they should be eating dinner or going to sleep. Important to note is that not anyone can train a disabled driver in an adapted car—experts must do that job. This ultimately means minors will not get their license until the age of 18, when those nighttime requirements are waived by the state government.

Therefore, on my behalf and the behalf of all drivers like me, I would like to kindly propose that the law (specifically the 10 hours of after-dark practice) be adjusted, only for those under 18 who need car modifications. My proposal is that disabled minors should complete 50 hours of only daytime training and wait until they turn 18 to be given permission to drive at night. This way, minors like me will be allowed to obtain their license, simply with restrictions around after-dark driving, at an earlier age. I believe nighttime driving can be postponed until a later age, because obtaining a driver's license early is extremely liberating and important as a step to adulthood.

I am an intern at a local Boys and Girls Club, and three times every week, either my mother or father drives me there and drops me off. Obtaining my driver's license when I'm 16 or 17 will allow me to drive myself there on a weekly basis, which lets my parents have time to work and support the family. When you continue through the grades in high school, more and more students are capable of driving, and there is a desire on my end to fit in with other classmates.

Additionally, my school partners with a local community college which offers classes for high school students. Also, students can graduate high school early to study at the college. Therefore, I could be off to college in very short time. Driving is critical to getting from home to a class on time and efficiently, and if I even begin taking college courses at 17, I will have to be driven, every day, to the college to attend class. I would be anxious to imagine what a burden that would put on my parents and the entire family dynamic.

Perhaps the most important reason getting my license is important is because, simply put, I have a disability, and having a disability does not define me. I want to be independent and defy what others think about my condition, and getting my license and driving alone will accomplish just that.

I believe it is subtly discriminating against minors with disabilities who want to drive if the law requires 10 hours of nighttime driving, but the minor's family can't arrange with the trainer to actually do those hours. It is difficult to hire trainers who have the intention of staying up until one in the morning training me (or anyone else similar to me), but it is more feasible to adapt the state law. This is why I cordially propose to eliminate the nighttime practice hours for minors needing adapted driving equipment.

Thank you for listening,

Ben Foley

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