Senators Seek National Standards for Teen Drivers

Three Democratic senators are pushing legislation that would create a national graduated driver licensing (GDL) law. If successful, it would replace the various state laws around the country and create a single national standard that would encompass proven safety policies for teen drivers. Who knows, it could possibly even give parents a little help with improving their auto insurance rates.

Restrictions Proposed for National GDL Law

The Senate legislation is known as the Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection (STAND UP) act. It is designated for new drivers under the age of 21 and would:

  • Establish a three-stage process that would include a learner’s permit, intermediate state then unrestricted driver’s license.
  • Prohibit unsupervised nighttime driving during the first two stages.
  • Prohibit non-emergency use of cellphones and other mobile devices during the first two phases.

While some approve of the proposal, there is a bit of controversy associated with it as well. One reason is because of the age restriction portion of the proposal.

Right now, the age for many drivers to receive their permits is 14 or 15; however, with the new proposal, the permit could not be acquired until the age of 16 with unrestricted driving rights at 18. Some think this is simply too late an age to allow teens to drive unrestricted, while others praise the idea.

Another cause for controversy in the bill is the state compliance guideline. If states were to fail to comply with STAND UP’s minimum requirements after three years, they would lose some federal highway construction money. Many governors are not happy with this idea.

GDL Programs Reduce Car Crashes

While the proposal is meeting mixed reviews, there is no doubt that increased restrictions have made a difference in safety, and possibly even auto insurance premiums.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, states that impose major restrictions like GDL programs see crash reductions of 10-30 percent. In Massachusetts alone, fatal crashes involving drivers under the age of 18 dropped 75 percent in the three years following tougher restrictions for younger drivers.

Some other states that have already taken steps to strengthen their state-wide GDL laws include:

  • New Jersey: New Jersey strengthened its GDL law by adding a provision requiring teens with a driver’s permit or probationary license to display a special decal on their license plates. This is the first law of its kind in the nation.
  • Illinois: In Illinois, lawmakers are considering reducing the amount of time that teens can drive on the weekend nights.

To date, every state except North Dakota has a licensing program for teens that includes three phases. Some programs go further to include restrictions on nighttime driving, limits on the number of teen passengers allowed in one vehicle and disallowing teens to get their learner’s permit before the age of 16.

The debate on whether to allow the federal government to get involved in GDL laws or keep it at the state level is sure to be a major one. But hopefully, whatever does occur will help to improve teen driving behavior and increase safety on the roads, which could in turn help create an environment for affordable auto insurance.