Proposed Federal Law Would Standardize Graduated License Programs & Prevent Teen Crashes
Many states including Georgia have enacted graduated driver’s license (GDL) programs, designed to reduce the number of auto accidents involving inexperienced teen drivers.
While these laws that typically involve phasing in driving privileges and imposing limitations on new inexperienced drivers have been successful in preventing teen car accidents by as much as forty percent, some states have failed to enact such precautions.
Congress has been considering a new law called the Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection Act (STANDUP) that would impose certain GDL restrictions on teen drivers of all states. While the federal law would not eliminate existing GDL programs, all states would be required to have GDL programs that meet the minimum standards established by the STANDUP act.
The STANDUP act is designed to further reduce the number and seriousness of auto accidents involving teen drivers. Approximately 3,000 new teen drivers age 16-19 are killed annually in auto accidents while another 350,000 teens in this age range are treated in hospital emergency rooms according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Eight teenagers die every day in teen auto accidents across the U.S. Although teenagers drive the lowest number of miles of all drivers except the very oldest drivers, inexperienced teen drivers account for a disproportionately high number of auto accidents and auto accident fatalities according to data complied by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
The data on teen drivers reveals that inexperience is a key contributing factor to teenage auto accidents. Teenage drivers between the ages of 16-19 are involved in four times the number of accidents as more experienced drivers per mile driven. The highest number of teenage auto accidents involves the most newly licensed drivers (age 16) who are involved in twice as many accidents as 18 and 19 year-olds combined based on IIHS data.
Under the STANDUP act, state GDL laws must meet certain minimum requirements. Teenage drivers under the age of 21 must receive driving privileges in a minimum of three stages: learner’s permit, intermediate licensing stage and unrestricted driver’s license starting once a driver reaches age 18. A teenager may qualify for a learner’s permit at age 16 and an intermediate license at age 18.
A state GDL law must also include restrictions on nighttime driving by teens and restrictions on transporting passengers. A new licensed driver who has not obtained an unrestricted license may not transport more than one non-family member unless there is a licensed driver over age 21 in the car. Teen drivers who have not obtained an unrestricted license would also be prohibited from any non-emergency use of cell phones or electronic devices while driving. The Secretary of Transportation could also add other discretionary requirements including delay of issuance of an unrestricted license for traffic violations like speeding, DUI, DWI, reckless driving, misrepresentation of age or failure to wear a seatbelt.
It is not yet clear whether the STANDUP act will become law, but it is an acknowledgement that despite progress in reducing teenage auto accidents, teen drivers are still involved in too many collisions. The provision of the STANDUP act prohibiting all use of electronic devices and cell phones except for emergencies is particularly encouraging. Distracted driving by inexperienced teen drivers that are texting or talking on a cell phone is especially dangerous.
If you or your loved one has been injured in an Atlanta auto accident with an unsafe teen driver, contact the experienced Atlanta auto accident attorneys at Montlick & Associates for your free consultation. Our Atlanta auto accident lawyers have over 37 years of experience providing legal representation to auto accident victims throughout Georgia.
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