Colfax County Attorney Denise Kracl has a message for local parents: Don’t let your underage kids drive or you’ll both receive a ticket.
Kracl’s office has seen an uptick in the number of young juveniles caught behind the wheel without the proper driver’s license, including a recent incident in which a 14-year-old crashed into a tree in Schuyler with three other minors in the vehicle.
“We are lucky they walked away,” Kracl said of that accident. “I can’t believe they did.”
The county attorney reported 10 to 15 cases so far this year involving youths driving without the necessary license.
The infractions aren’t limited to a specific ethnic group, she said, although her office is working with Comite Latino on an educational campaign to combat the issue.
“I think some of the bigger issues that we’re seeing is the parents are letting them (drive),” Kracl said.
“It feels like there’s some level of parental apathy,” she added. “They just don’t care.”
But they should.
Kracl said minors caught driving without the proper license will be ticketed and considered for the youth diversion program for the first offense. If it happens again, they could be sentenced to probation.
It’s also against the law for adults to let an unlicensed minor drive their vehicle, and they can also be charged.
“I want parents to understand that they’re going to get a ticket,” Kracl said.
There are four types of driver’s licenses someone under the age of 17 can have in Nebraska.
School learner’s permit — minimum age 14
This permit allows a student to practice driving for a school permit. They must be accompanied by a licensed driver at least 21 years old at all times.
School permit — minimum age 14 years and 2 months
A school permit can be issued if a student lives outside a city of 5,000 or more residents or attends a school outside a city of that size.
This allows students to drive from their home to school and any extracurricular activities at the school. However, they must take the most-direct route between the two locations.
Kracl said one problem she sees is parents who send their children with school permits on errands, which isn’t allowed under the license. Students with school permits can drive at any time if they’re accompanied by a licensed driver at least 21 years old.
Learner’s permit — minimum age 15
This permit allows a youth to practice driving for a provisional operator’s license, operator’s license or motorcycle license. Learner’s permit holders must be accompanied by a licensed driver at least 21 years old when behind the wheel.
Provisional operator’s permit — minimum age 16
Provisional permit holders can drive unsupervised between 6 a.m. and midnight, or at any time if they’re traveling between home and work or a school activity. They can also drive between midnight and 6 a.m. if they’re accompanied by a parent, guardian or licensed driver at least 21 years old.
During the first six months after receiving the permit, the driver can’t have more than one passenger who is younger than 19 and not an immediate family member.