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The Road to Unrestricted Driving for Teenagers Just Got Longer – in an Effort to Save Lives

student_driver21(Photo courtesy just over two months now, new legislative changes have been in place, which place additional restrictions on young new drivers. This change is aimed at saving teen lives, and was enacted after a series of tragic teen deaths last year, due to distracted driving. During the first quarter of 2011, our state lost 16 young lives, prompting legislators to pass the new law, (LD1920) providing further limitations for minors operating under learners’ permits or new provisional licenses, as well as increased fines and duration of suspensions for violations which occur during these intermediary stages. In addition to these stipulations aimed at protecting novice drivers, the law also increased the fine for texting while driving, already illegal for all drivers, from $100 to $250 in an effort to further deter dangerous behaviors and prevent unnecessary fatalities.

Legislators know that young drivers are an “at risk” group. According to a CDC report, motor vehicle accidents represent the leading cause of death for teenagers in America. Per mile driven, young drivers under the age of 19 are three times as likely as older drivers to be involved in a fatal accident. And while male and female drivers between the ages of 15 to 24 represent merely 14% of the United States population, they comprise 30% and 28% of the total costs of vehicle injuries per gender, respectively. In 2010, over 280,000 teens between the ages of 16-19 were treated in an emergency room for injuries sustained in an automobile accident and approximately 2,700 young lives were lost.

Within our state, the Maine Transportation Safety Coalition reports that 34% of all traffic fatalities in the year 2010, involved young drivers between the ages of 16 and 24. A range of factors such as, driver inexperience, speed, distracted driving, and alcohol consumption caused these accidents. Sadly, only 39% of these young drivers were wearing their seat belts at the time of the crash. With statistics such as these, it is no surprise that further action has been taken.

As of August 30th, provisional restrictions placed on new drivers under the age of 18 concerning passengers, and hours of operation for minors operating under an intermediate or provisional license have been extended from six months to nine months, and the use of cell phones is prohibited for anyone under the age of 18, period. These new drivers may not carry passengers other than family members or tenured licensed drivers and may not operate a motor vehicle between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. Penalties for traffic infractions have also been increased. For a complete breakdown of provisional licensing limitations, please click here.

According the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, states began enacting Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL’s) -a three step licensing process-in the 1990’s. The purpose of incremental licensing legislation is to address maturity, ensure proper training, encourage parental involvement, and reduce risk for new drivers while still providing them with valuable driving experience in which to gain and develop competencies. While specifications of graduated licensing programs vary among states, all 50 states and the District of Columbia now participate in some form of progressive licensure for new drivers.

Research demonstrates that Graduated Drivers Licensing programs save lives, and train young new drivers, more effectively, to become long-term safe drivers. Between the years of 1998 and 2008 for example, the number of fatalities for young drivers aged 15-20 years, decreased by 20 percent. Furthermore, studies show that the more comprehensive the program, the more effective the results, with the strongest programs reducing teenaged fatalities by 38 percent, and injuries by 40 percent. States with the strongest incremental licensing, and lowest teen fatality rates, address each of the following elements: permit age, practice hours, license age, night driving, and passenger restrictions; with the last two provisions having shown the largest impact upon driver safety.

Briggs & Wholey attorneys sincerely hope that these new measures will save young lives. All too often we see cases of devastating loss caused by distracted drivers. We see lives lost and promising futures forever altered because of unsafe patterns of behavior, or simply a careless or reckless act, which occurred in a fleeting moment. These cases are completely preventable and can occur regardless of age. If you or a loved one has been injured due to the careless or negligent behavior of others, contact the experienced attorneys at Briggs & Wholey for sound legal advice and guidance.

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