- Update: Pennsylvania fails to pass tougher teen driving law
- Thousands of teenage drivers die each year in the US
- Laws across the US are changing to help stop teenage drivers from dying in accidents caused by inexperience
- Teenagers and parents alike should know the rules of the road for you young drivers
Across the country, stronger teen driving laws have reduced accidents by 40 percent. Pennsylvania though failed to pass a law that would have tightened up safety measures for its teen drivers.
In April 2009, the Pennsylvania House approved a bill for teen drivers that made cell phone use and the failure to use seat belts primary offenses. That meant police could stop and cite drivers for violations. The bill also limited young drivers to one non-family passenger under 18.
A year later, a very different bill came out of the Senate. The cell phone restriction was knocked down to a secondary violation, meaning that police could only cite teen drivers for cell phone use if they were stopped for another traffic violation or involved in an accident. Another amendment lets teens transport three non-family youths once they drive accident-free for six months.
House lawmakers then rejected the Senate’s version of the bill. Rather than pass a watered-down law, the bill’s original sponsors said they’d try again to get it right in the fall.
At any given time in the US, thousands of teenage drivers are on the roads. As a matter of logic, teenagers lack experience driving, and so there are thousands of deaths and accidents each year. What's being done about it?
Driving Changes in the Law
In 2006, Kyleigh D'Alessio and two other teens were passengers in a sports car driven by 17-year-old Tanner Birch. According to reports, the car veered off the road and slammed into a tree. Kyleigh and Tanner were killed; the other passengers were injured.
Several other teens in the same New Jersey county were killed in car accidents the same year.
In March 2010, "Kyleigh's Law" was passed by the New Jersey legislature. Under the new law:
- Beginning May 1, 2010, all driver's under 21 years old must display red decals on the license plates of the cars they're driving
- Drivers 16 years old with a learner's permit must be accompanied by an adult, wear a seat belt, avoid using cell phones and other devices while driving, and can't drive at all between 11 PM and 5 AM
- Drivers 17 years old can get a one-year provisional license allowing them to drive without an adult. They must wear a seat belt, avoid using cell phones and other devices while driving, and can 't drive at all between 11 PM and 5 AM
New Jersey isn't the first state to pass more restrictive laws when it comes to teenage drivers. For example, under laws passed in Ohio in 2007, teen drivers:
- Must complete a certain number of hours of classroom and on-the-road education, as well as a number of hours of on-the-road practice outside formal driver's education classes, before they're eligible for a regular driver's license
- Those under 17 may have only one passenger who's not an immediate family member unless they're accompanied by their parent or legal guardian
- With learner's or temporary permits, drivers under 18 can't drive between midnight and 6 AM without a parent or guardian who has a valid license
- With a regular license those at 16 years old can't drive between midnight and 6 AM without a parent or guardian who has a valid license, except for school, emergencies, or work. Driver's 17 years old have the same restriction, but they're restricted from driving between 1 and 5 AM
Many states have similar laws. Violations mean fines or more restrictions on a teen's driving privileges. Kyleigh's Law, however, is the first to require the use of decals. They're meant to help police officers identify teenage drivers who aren't following the curfew or passenger restrictions. Failure to display the decals is a $100 fine, on top of any other fine for violating curfew or passenger restrictions.