Lawmakers Introduce National Teenage Driving Standards

It’s prom season in Indiana and around the country.  Most parents are well aware that teenagers and cars can be risky business, even under the best of circumstances.  But it’s perhaps the worst of circumstances, i.e., when alcohol is involved, that highway safety for all concerned could be most compromised. The  inexperience of teenagers with the effects of alcohol, their fearless and/or reckless attitude towards real danger, and their inexperience with the operation of the vehicle is a potent combination for real trouble on Indiana roads and throughout the country. Perhaps for this reason, three U.S. senators are co-sponsoring a bill that would establish the same licensing requirements for teenage drivers across the country regardless of jurisdiction, including raising the legal driving age.  Currently, each state establishes its own rules for drivers under 21.

The Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection (STAND UP) Act–a one-size-fits-all measure–would strengthen safety on U.S. roads, according to its sponsors.  If enacted, the STAND UP law would establish a three-phase licensing process–learner’s permit, intermediate stage, and full non-restricted license. This is also referred to as a graduated driver licensing (GDL) program. According to USA Today, “There is little debate about the effectiveness of good GDL programs on highway safety. States that impose major restrictions have seen crash reductions of 10%-30%.”

The intermediate stage (a minimum of six months), which begins when the new driver’s learner’s permit expires, would remain in effect until the driver is 18 or older.

The law would also mandate the following:

  • Learner’s permits issued at age 16 or older (rather than 14 or 15), and non-restricted drivers licenses issued at age 18
  • Prohibit night driving during stage one and two
  • Prohibit the use of wireless devices during stage one and two except in emergencies
  • No more than one non-family member under the age of 21 may travel with driver operating on a learner’s permit, unless a licensed driver over the age of 21 is in the vehicle

States that decline to comply with the law would risk losing federal highway safety funding. With all the issues percolating on Capitol Hill right now, however, it remains to be seen if Congress will give serious consideration to this measure. Opponents claim it would infringe on the rights of states to enact driving requirements unique to each state’s needs.

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