A very controversial bill is said to drop the driving age for some Nevada teenagers drew in mixed reactions during a Thursday hearing at the state Legislature.  

Assembly Bill 213 seeks to expand an existing state law that lets rural Nevadans as young as 14 drive to school in small towns and counties where the school district doesn’t provide transportation. Private school kids in any size city or county can already apply for a license that allows them to drive to class. The new measure, backed by Assemblywoman Alexis Hansen, R-Sparks, would grant that same privilege to public charter school students. That means 14-year-olds could soon be driving back and forth to schools that don’t provide a ride to students, even in Washoe and Clark counties. Measure skeptics, including a handful Democrats, fear it could unleash a torrent of reckless teenage drivers on crowded city streets. They’d like to see applicants complete a defensive driving course before getting a restricted license.

 Hansen stressed that it would only allow pupils to drive straight to school and straight home. Only 45 teenagers currently hold such a privileged license, she said. She estimated only about 2,100 additional students were likely to qualify for a license under AB 213. Hansen added that students seeking such a license would first need to secure parental permission, as well as approvals from a school principal and the Department of Motor Vehicles. The newly elected Republican assemblywoman represents a sprawling, largely rural district that extends east from Sparks beyond Battle Mountain, and south as far as Goldfield. But three of her bill’s co-sponsors are from much more densely populated parts of Southern Nevada, including Assemblyman Chris Edwards, R-Las Vegas and state Sen. Keith Pickard, R-Henderson. Nevada drivers can already get a learner’s permit at age 15 1/2, so long as they bring along a passenger who is 21 with at least a year of driving experience.The Silver State is one of a handful that allows drivers with learner’s permits as young as 15. South Dakota allows learners at age 14 and issues restricted licenses at 14 1/2. Lawmakers on Assembly Growth and Infrastructure committee took no action on the bill as of now.