Graduated Teen Licensing To Become Federally Mandated?

March 9, 2011
Teenage crashes cost U.S. $34 billion annually

Teenage crashes cost U.S. $34 billion annually

The days of unrestricted driver's licenses at age 16 are, for the most part, long gone. Yet not all states have acted to reel in teen drivers and help keep them safe.

Now, the federal government is poised to step on what, some would argue, is each state's domain. A bill introduced to Congress this week could set mandatory federal standards for licensing—and restricting—teen drivers.

The Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection Act (STANDUP), introduced in the Senate would set minimum standards in all states for graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs, which has been proven to reduce deaths and injuries among the least experienced drivers.

If states fail to comply with the new standard, the federal government could withhold a specific amount of federal highway money each year.

Although most states now have graduated licensing rules, they vary significantly from state to state and several don't even require supervised driving at the learning stage. Most have nighttime restrictions, but some place restrictions on teen passengers.

According to the bill's sponsors, Senators Gillibrand and Klobuchar, and Congressmen Tim Bishop and Chris Van Hollen, those with strong GDL rules have seen up to a 40-percent reduction in teen-driver crashes.

In 2009 alone, more than 5,600 people were killed in accidents involving drivers age 15 to 20; and the annual cost of teen-driving crashes has been estimated at more than $30 billion.

Under the bill, teen drivers in all states would have a minimum of six months at the learner's permit stage, followed by at least six months with a restricted license; unrestricted licenses would be the domain of those 18 or older. That would be a major change for a number of states, as in some of them full, unrestricted licenses are granted to those under 18 after a restricted period.

[Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety; CNN]

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