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NY Congressman Introduces Legislation to Set Nationwide Driver License Standards

Source: Congressman Tim Bishop Website

Posted on 22 Apr 2011

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New York Democratic Congressman Tim Bishop has introduced legislation to establish nationwide standards for driver licenses with the goal of reducing the high incidence of accidents involving teen and novice drivers.

The Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection (STAND UP) Act will set national standards for states to implement Graduated Drivers License (GDL) programs that prepare teens to be safe, responsible drivers.

"Inexperience behind the wheel can be deadly, and the distractions created by cell phones and other devices only contribute to the risk," said Congressman Tim Bishop. "Dangerous driving does not stop at state lines, and the STANDUP Act takes comprehensive action now to reduce preventable car crashes caused by teen drivers."

Introduced with Republican lead cosponsor Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and seven other members, the STANDUP Act (H.R. 1515) is now under consideration in the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.  Companion legislation sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is pending in the Senate.

Grim statistics on teen driving accidents illustrate the scope of the problem:

-Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death of Americans between 15 and 20 years of age?-20 percent of all highway fatalities occur in crashes involving teen drivers?-Between 1999 and 2009, more than 90,000 Americans were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving teen drivers, an average of 155 deaths per week.?-16 year-old drivers have a vehicle crash rate 10 times that of drivers between 30 and 60 years of age.?-On Long Island from 2005-2009, 48 people died in car accidents involving 16 and 17-year-old drivers, in addition to 12,143 that were injured.

"The bipartisan, cost-effective STANDUP Act is a commonsense solution to ensure that every teen in every state is protected by a comprehensive teen driving law," said Jackie Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.  "Congressman Bishop is a true leader in making our roads safer for drivers of all ages."

Gillan noted that the STANDUP Act is supported by the Saferoads4teens coalition consisting of national, state and local public health and safety groups, teens, parents, emergency doctors and nurses, law enforcement and leaders in the insurance and auto industries.

The STANDUP Act urges all states to adopt GDL laws that meet specific minimum requirements within 3 years. Those requirements include:

-A three-stage licensing process - learner’s permit, intermediate stage, unrestricted driver’s license;

-Prohibits nighttime driving in the intermediate stage when teens a driving by themselves for the first time;

-Passenger restrictions during the learner’s permit and intermediate stage (no more than 1 non-family member under the age of 21 unless a licensed driver over age 21 is in the vehicle);?-Prohibits non-emergency use of cell phones during the learner’s permit and intermediate stages;

-Learner’s permit begins at age 16 while the full licensure begins at age 18;

-Any other requirement adopted by the Secretary of Transportation, including learner’s permit holding period at least 6 months; intermediate stage at least 6 months; at least 30 hours behind-the-wheel, supervised driving by licensed driver 21 years of age or older; automatic delay of full licensure if permit holder commits an offense, such as DWI, misrepresentation of true age, reckless driving, unbelted driving, speeding, or other violations as determined by the Secretary.

New York already meets nearly all of these standards, but must raise the age for an unrestricted license to 18 years to fully comply with the STANDUP Act. Currently, an unrestricted license can be acquired at age 17 in New York with a completed drivers’ education course.  States that fail to meet new requirements within three years would lose out on 3 percent of their federal highway funding the first fiscal year of non-compliance, 5 percent for the second fiscal year, and 10 percent from the third fiscal year.

Facing similar consequences, all 50 states passed laws to establish 21 as the legal drinking age, a .08 percent legal blood alcohol level, and a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving.  Bishop noted that no state has ever lost federal highway funds through laws of this type.  In addition, the STAND UP Act would authorize $25 million in grants each year for three years to help give states the resources they need to put new standards in place – from enforcing standards, to training law enforcement, to publishing new educational materials