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New statistics reveal need for teen driving bill to pass

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on January 17, 2002:

Senator Dyson Now, more than ever is the time for a bill I have proposed for six years to pass the in the General Assembly and be signed by the governor. As soon as we do this, we will either save the lives of teenagers or prevent them from seriously injuring themselves and/or others.

My bill would prohibit a minor who first receives their driver’s license from transporting passengers other than family members for the first 180 days they receive their privilege to drive.

Critics call this bill Draconian. I completely disagree. One hundred and eighty days is not a long time to make sure that new teen drivers do nothing but concentrate on what they are behind the wheel to do -- drive safely.

Every year, I have had the full support of the State Police, all three Southern Maryland sheriffs and Triple A. Yet I continue to be dumbfounded by the fact that this bill consistently gets killed in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee despite overwhelming statistics stating that this bill will save lives or prevent injuries.

This is common sense legislation. If you don’t think so, just take a moment to observe teen drivers getting into a car with their peers and watch as the driver pulls away. Every time I do this, I notice that they immediately start either fiddling with their compact disc player, talking on their cell phones or looking at their fellow passengers either beside them -- or worse talking to their friends in the backseat.

There is no way these drivers are fully concentrating on safe driving. Triple A calls these “party barges.”

Last year, I read a story about Vice President Gore’s biggest fear upon leaving office. He replied that he was most concerned about having to relearn how to drive. Even the Vice President knew how important it was to concentrate his full attention on the road.

Each year, new statistics are released that prove teen driving fatalities and accidents far outnumber those by non-teen drivers.

This year, the National Highway Safety Highway Administration reports a disturbing new trend. For years, female teen drivers had significantly better driving records than males. Now, that is no longer the fact. There is virtually no difference between the numbers of accidents involving female drivers and male drivers.

Also, according to the NHSHA, 16-year old drivers have crash rates three times greater than 17-year-olds, five times greater than 18-year-olds and twice of those who are 85 or over.

According to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University which looked at all types of road deaths involving teen drivers including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists and people in vehicles driven by teenagers or struck by teen drivers. The death rate for 16- and 17-year old drivers transporting only passengers younger than 20 was almost four times the rate for drivers ages 16-17 without passengers.

Some teens tell me this isn’t a “cool” bill. Well, I think it is pretty “cool” to save lives. A life saved will have a chance to reach old age, not have all of their 16, 17 and 18 year old friends as well as loved ones grieving over their caskets in the cemetery.

We need to proactive on this issue. Once this bill goes into effect, we will ensure the safety of our teen drivers and those they may kill or injure. It is time that the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee finally come to the realization that the nation’s leading expert on automobile safety and virtually all law enforcement officials agree is the right thing to do.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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