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There is no need for teen “party barges”

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on March 25, 2002:

Senator Dyson Once again, tragically and needlessly, we have lost three more of our teens in two separate horrific car accidents. Ironically, and sadly, these deaths came just days after a recalcitrant Senate Committee killed a bill of mine that I believe would prevent similar tragedies from occurring. The Chairman of the Committee, for reasons beyond my comprehension, calls this needless legislation.

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.

Days after the Judicial Proceedings Committee killed this life-saving bill, two teens who attend Henry E. Lackey High School in Charles County were killed due to driver inexperience, according to the Maryland State Police. Another teen was seriously injured. The Lackey community is devastated. Earlier this year, the community lost two other teen drivers in a car accident in Virginia.

But these types of accidents aren’t just occurring at Lackey High School. They are happening all over the state. Days after the accident at Lackey, a Gaithersburg youth lost control of his car while drag racing with another youth. The passenger in the vehicle, driven by a 16-year-old teen who had just had his license for two months, was killed in the accident.

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.”

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.

The statistics overwhelmingly support my bill. I believe it is time for those who don’t support this legislation to consider the suffering the loved ones of the Lackey students -- Joseph Wade, whose own mother said “he was allowed to drive in the car with his friend and his mother in the car, but not with teenagers by himself,” and Eric Graham are going through right now.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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