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Posted on July 07, 2006:
Tangible results are showing about limiting teen drivers and their passengers.
It’s not very often when you are successful getting a law passed only to see nearly immediate results.
Often after a law goes into effect, you wonder what its ultimate consequences will be.
Recently, AAA Mid-Atlantic released a news release that showed a bill I vigorously pursued which eventually became law last year, has reaped tangible results for the better.
For nearly a decade, I pressed for legislation that would limit the number of passengers a newly licensed teen driver could carry in their cars. After help from organizations such as AAA and the National Transportation Safety Board not to mention our local state police barrack commanders and sheriffs as well as numerous officers in both counties threw their support behind my bill, did the legislation I had proposed for years passed.
Now, according to AAA “a new teen driving study released [on June 22] by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety confirms that nighttime and passenger restriction law, such as those in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia has significantly reduced the crash deaths and crash rates of new teen drivers.”
The press release states that death and injury crash rates for 16-year-old drivers were 20 percent lower in states with those laws in place, according to the study.
“This study is very important because it confirms that locally, we are on target with laws in the three jurisdictions that restrict passengers and nighttime driving by new drivers,” said Lon Anderson, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Director of Public and Government Affairs.
Lon was very helpful in working with me to see that my legislation was ultimately successful. His passionate advocacy on behalf of the teen driving bill ultimately drove home the fact to legislators in the House and Senate that limiting teen drivers would save lives.
I first became aware of the dangers of drivers carrying numerous passengers more than 10 years ago when we had a horrific accident in virtually my back yard. The issue became even more important to me when a tragic accident involving three teens occurred several years ago in Calvert County. The driver of that brand new beautiful Ford Mustang had recently received his license and was carrying two other passengers.
After leaving Patuxent High School, he and a friend went drag racing. The Mustang’s driver and his passengers were not only killed, they also ran head-on to an adult driver who was leaving the state to start his life anew with a girlfriend. That driver died nearly 30 days after the accident.
That particular tragedy made me realize that we are all susceptible to the dangers of teens not paying attention on the roadways. Not only were they killing themselves, they were putting people of all ages at risk.
This issue isn’t just confined to our area.
A friend and constituent who has supported stronger teen driving laws over the years, recently sent me an opinion piece from the Pocono (PA) Record with the headline “All states should protect teen drivers.” It cited a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study that “compared statistics among various states with stricter and more lenient licensing programs. They learned that the stricter and more comprehensive the licensing procedures, the lower that state’s accident race.”
John B. Townsend II, with AAA also head an excellent observation that I couldn’t agree more with.
“Teens who obey traffic rules and regulations, follow state graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws and have actively involved parents are much less likely to crash,” Mr. Townsend said.
That Mr. Townsend mentioned “actively involved parents” was one of the reason so many of them have come up to me over the less than a year that the restricted teen driving bill became law. They said they no longer have to be the “bad guys” when they tell their sons or daughters that are newly licensed that they can not go out joyriding with their children. They can simply tell them it’s the law.
AAA-Mid Atlantic said it will continue to help parents assist their new drivers through efforts with local Departments of Motor Vehicles to “make crucial information about teen driver safety more readily accessible for parents and teens.”
For instance, the AAA Foundation offers an interactive DVD for teens called Driver-ZED, which puts users through 100 driving scenerios allowing them to experience conditions it could take several years to encounter on the road. There is also a supplemental information ot aid parents in the process. Visit www.driverzed.or to learn more or contact AAA Mid-Atlantic at 1-877-CARS-AAA.
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