Klobuchar proposes tighter teen driving laws

WASHINGTON–DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar and other lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday that would set minimum nationwide guidelines for issuing drivers licenses to young people in an effort to reduce the leading cause of death among teenagers.

Called the STANDUP Act, the bill would require states to issue to graduated drivers licenses for young drivers or risk losing federal highway funds.

At a press conference at the Capitol, Klobuchar, who’s the mother of a teenager, said the accident data on teen driving spoke for itself.

“They’re more likely to take risks while they’re driving. They’re more likely to speed and drive while distracted. They will drink and drive at times, and teenagers have the lowest rate of seatbelt use,” Klobuchar said. “It’s not saying teenagers are bad, it’s just the facts.”

Klobuchar’s co-sponsor is Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand, D-NY. Congressmen Tim Bishop, D-NY and Chris Van Hollen, D-MD, will introduce a companion bill shortly in the House.

The act’s sponsors say more than 5,600 people were killed in traffic accidents in 2009 involving drivers between the ages of 15 and 20. All states have some restrictions on young drivers, but standards vary considerably. States with strong graduated licensing laws have seen a reduction in teen driver crashes of up to 40 percent.

The act would introduce a three stage process for acquiring a drivers license, including a minimum six-month learner’s permit stage and another intermediate six month stage before teens get an unrestricted license at age 18.

New drivers would be prohibited from driving at night during the first two stages, and they would be restricted from carrying teenage passengers during those periods and from using cell phones except in emergency situations. Minnesota already has a similar law.

The act’s sponsors hope to pass a stand-alone version of the act, but said they may also try to attach it to this year’s highway bill, which is considered a “must pass” piece of legislation.

  • Ree

    While I normally agree with these sorts of rules (teens driving with cell-phones and friends), I am not supportive of the nighttime driving restriction. I think one of the biggest advantages of having a license is to be able to transport oneself to work. Many teens have evening and weekend jobs that they need to get home from after dark. There are already curfew laws, so I am assuming that the new restrictions would be earlier than the curfew rules. I think it is very important to encourage teens to have jobs.

  • cbh

    This is just another example of big government. Drivers licenses are a state issue. What is the problem here…does she think states hate teenagers and will not protect them?

    Another layer of unfunded paralysis. Another million dollars spent on pushing paper. Another state right absorbed by an out of control federal monster.

  • Britta

    Ree, I believe with the current rules in place, teens are allowed to drive at night when returning home from work or a school related event.

  • Poppy

    What about the illegal immigrants that are driving the country with no insurance and no license? Does the Senate NOT see that as an issue?

  • Paul

    @Ree

    Teens are allowed to drive to and from work between the hours of 12AM and 5AM. They are also allowed to drive to and from school events between these hours if the school doesn’t provide transportation.

    Source: I am a licensed Driver’s Education teacher