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NY State Looking to Impose Tougher Restrictions on Teen Drivers

Posted on 27 Apr 2009

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New York Governor David Paterson's administration will likely pass legislation imposing tougher restrictions on teenage drivers after stalling in Albany the past two years.

The proposed rules include:

• The number of non-family passengers under age 21 in a car driven by a teenager would be restricted to one.

• Electronic devices — hand-held or otherwise — would be banned for teen drivers.

• Practice time would be increased to 50 hours, with at least 15 hours at night, before a road test for a license can be taken. Currently, 20 hours are required, and 39 states require more training than New York, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

• Road tests could not be scheduled for at least six months after a teenager obtains a driver’s permit.

Last-minute squabbles and political fights killed previous efforts during a two-year period when more than 400 fatal crashes occurred involving teen drivers throughout the state.

“We’re confident it will pass this year,” said David Swarts, state motor vehicle commissioner.

One big reason for the optimism is federal money.

Federal lawmakers Thursday unveiled legislation that threatens to take away transportation money to states that do not beef up their teen safety laws.

“This legislation is simply about saving lives. It is about teaching young people both the responsibility and privileges of driving,” said Rep. Tim Bishop, a Long Island Democrat and lead sponsor of the federal bill proposing a single national standard on teen driving — known as graduated driver licensing laws.

The statistics are sobering:

Motor vehicle accidents are the No. 1 cause of death — at 36 percent — for teenagers.

Teen drivers are twice as likely to die as adult drivers, federal studies show. And a 16- year-old driver is three times as likely to be involved in a crash as a 17-year-old and five times more likely than an 18-year-old.

In 2007, 236 people — teen drivers, their passengers or occupants of other vehicles — were killed in New York, according to Saferoads4teens Coalition, a group of safety, health care, business and insurance groups that kicked off Thursday’s push for the federal bill. In the past five years, 1,231 people have been killed in teen crashes in the state.