July 2, 2012
Congress passed the Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection (STAND UP) Act on Friday as part of the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, Part II (H.R. 4348). The STAND UP Act will set minimum standards for states to implement Graduated Driver's License (GDL) programs and authorize grants to incentivize states to implement the laws.
On a 373-52 vote, the House sent the measure to the Senate which passed it, 74-19. President Barack Obama is expected to sign it into law.
GDLs are believed to be an effective method for reducing the risk of crashes among new drivers by introducing teens to the driving experience gradually, phasing in full driving privileges over time in low-risk settings, and learning to eliminate distractions that cause accidents.
While every state has some version of a GDL system, the requirements vary widely and are very weak in some states. For instance, six states allow for learner's permits to be issued to drivers as young as 14. Three states have no regulations on nighttime driving for teen drivers, and one state (South Dakota) allows for a 16 year old to receive an unrestricted license.
The legislation would call on states to establish GDL systems with minimum requirements:
- A three-stage licensing process, from learner's permit to intermediate to full, non-restricted license
- Restrictions on night driving during intermediate stage
- Passenger restrictions during learner's permit and intermediate stage. No more than one non-family member under the age of 21 may travel with a learning teenage driver, unless a licensed driver over the age of 21 is in the vehicle
- Prohibited non-emergency use of cell phones and other communication devices, including text messaging during the learner's permit and intermediate stages (under 18 years old)
- Intermediate License issued no earlier than age 16 and non-restricted drivers licenses to be issued at age 18
- Any other requirement set by the Secretary of Transportation, including: learner's permit holding period of at least six months; intermediate stage of at least six months; at least 30 hours of driving supervised by a licensed driver 21 years old or older; automatic delay of full licensure if permit holder commits an offense, such as a DWI, misrepresentation of age, reckless driving, driving without a seatbelt, speeding, or other violations determined by the Transportation secretary.
Insurers support graduated licensing programs.
"Research demonstrates inexperienced teen drivers are much more likely to crash than other drivers," said Chris Mullen, Director of Technology Research at State Farm. "Strong GDL laws gradually and systematically expose teens to more complex driving situations, ultimately reducing their crash risk. Studies show that crashes among teen drivers have decreased by up to 38 percent in states with strong graduated licensing systems."
Allstate Insurance Company's Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas J. Wilson said, "We applaud Congress for taking a major step forward to support efforts to reduce the number of teenagers that die in auto accidents.
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