Laws for teen drivers could change
Some legislators in Indiana are looking to change the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) law that pertains to new teen drivers.
Insurance Associations and even the AAA Hoosier motor Club is jumping on board the movement to improve the law and hopeful reduce the fatality rate among teens.
Motor vehicle crashes are still the leading cause of death for young drivers age 15 to 20 and the highest fatality rate is among 16-year-old drivers.
According to AAA both nationally and in Indiana, nearly two of every three people killed in teen-driver crashes are people other than the teen driver.
GDL is a three-stage licensing process that allows beginning drivers to get initial driving experience under low-risk conditions.
It then introduces them to more complex driving situations over a period of time.
An interim study committee on learner's permits and graduated driver's licenses was formed earlier this year.
At a recent meeting at the Legislative Services Agency, Indianapolis, Senators from around the state met to discuss a version of House Bill 112-2008 that concerns the GDL bill.
Judge Paul Mathias of the Indiana court of Appeals testified to the committee that he believes age is the most important factor in safe driving by newly licensed drivers.
He suggested a sticker placed on the vehicles of new drivers.
He also expressed concern about devices designed to be handheld that are mounted within a vehicle and then broadcast through the radio. This would include items like IPODs.
Robert Spolyar with State Farm Insurance testified that he believed there should be minimum holding periods for learner's permits.
"California had a significant reduction in crashes when its GDL bill became law," he said.
Some of the changes legislators and others would like to see include applicants younger than 18 to first be required to hold a learner's permit for 180 days and show evidence of a 50-hour driving log certified by a parent or guardian. Ten of those hours would be logged during nighttime hours.
The current law does not require practice driving at all.
AAA believes teens should be restricted to no passengers (unless accompanied by an adult) during the first 180 days of driving.
Statistics show the crash risk for teen drivers increases dramatically as the number of passengers increases. By adding one passenger, the crash risk doubles. With two passengers, the risk nearly triples and with three or more, the risk is five-fold says AAA.
The restriction of the use of cell phones and other handled electronic devices for drivers younger than 18 is also supported by AAA.
The current 2008 Legislation (HB1112) includes increasing the age for learner's permit (supervised driving only) from 15 years-of-age to 15 and 6 months with Driver's Education. It will remain at 16 years without Driver's Education.
Also, the permit holding time for a learner would go from two months to six months and a 50-hour log of supervised practice driving with either a licensed instructor or driver over the age of 25 would be required.
The age for a probationary license (unsupervised driving) would increase from age 16 and one month to age 16 and six months with Driver's Education and from 16 and six months to 17 years without Driver's Education.
Passenger restrictions would be increased. For 180 days no passengers would be allowed to ride with new drivers unless accompanied by an adult who is a licensed driver. This is an increase from the current 90-day restriction. Siblings and children of the driver are exempt.
Nighttime driving restrictions would also change. Curfew hours from 10 p.m.-5 a.m. for the first six months of driving with exemptions for work, school and church related activities were going into effect. Then, restrictions during curfew hours until age 18 would also have the same exemptions.
Use of cell phones and other handheld electronic devices while driving would be restricted until age 18.
HB1112 successfully passed the House and the Senate with overwhelming support early this year. The bill was then placed before Governor Mitch Daniels for approval, and he signed the bill into law on March third. Following that the Interim Study Committee was formed.
This committee will give our legislators a better opportunity to take a closer look at the issue and then provide recommendations for a bill next year.
AAA Hoosier Motor Club is asking members to fill out an opinion survey to help them define their legislative position. Visit AAA.com/teensdrive to find out more about GDL.