Senate approves proposal to compel states to enact strict teen driving rules
Published March 15, 2012
Congress is employing the same tactic it used to raise the drinking age to compel states to enact new teenage driving laws.
Three decades ago, Washington prodded the states to raise the legal drinking age to 21 by threatening to withhold federal transportation dollars if they didn’t.
The threat worked.
Now, Congress is looking at using similar threats to compel states to pass new driving laws covering everything from teen texting to minimum driving ages.
Provisions passed Wednesday in the Senate would urge states to implement, among other new rules, a three-stage licensing process — first a learner’s permit, then an intermediate one and finally a driver’s license.
The rules were passed as part of a two-year, $109 billion highway bill. They would also call for restrictions on teenage night driving during the intermediate period, bar most use of a cellphone in the first two stages and ensure regular licenses are not issued before age 18.
The rules would hit some states harder than others, as many already have strict teenage driving laws.
But according to the office of sponsor Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., a number of states fall short of the proposed standards. Three states do not have regulations for nighttime driving — and South Dakota gives unrestricted licenses to 16-year-olds. Other states would likely be compelled to raise the age at which they offer a learner’s permit.
The proposal does not require these changes. Rather, it uses a carrot-and-stick approach by offering grants to states that comply early on and withholding highway funding to states that hold out.
“This legislation will give young drivers better education and more experience before they get out on the roads, keeping us all safer and saving lives,” Gillibrand said in a written statement.
The proposal could run into objections from states’ rights advocates, as well as lawmakers in rural states where the teenage driving laws tend to be less stringent.
The bill still has to clear the House.
Allstate, though, released a statement praising the bill and claiming it would save lives.
“Car crashes are the leading cause of death for young drivers, and we have a real opportunity to enact legislation that can help make our roads safer,” the national insurer said in the statement. “This is a bipartisan issue that affects American families across the country.”
According to the SafeRoads4Teens coalition, more than 5,000 people died in crashes involving teen drivers in 2010. The group claims the “patchwork” of state laws leaves some teen drivers “better protected than others.”
A lot of this would make sense, in the North Buckhead Driving and DUI School’s opinion. But, I bet you won’t find a teenager out there that agrees. What would the effect be on Georgia’s teenagers? Well, first and foremost it would mean they’d have to wait until they were twenty-one to get a full driver’s license. I can imagine that would have an effect on and could potentially cause problems for teens that graduate high school and want to head off to college before they turn eighteen. This proposed intermediate license between the learners and full license would also be something new to this state. The amount of effect it would have depends on the restrictions put on this intermediate license and those details haven’t been fleshed out yet.
We here at North Buckhead Driving and DUI School are trying to make the roads a little safer. We have weekly DUI / Risk Reduction Classes as well as Defensive Driving Classes. You can sign up by calling our office at (678) 510-2099 or by visiting our website at http://www.northbuckheaddrivingandduischool.com/ and using our secure registration system
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