October 19, 2011

During Teen Driver Safety Week, Gillibrand Calls for Support of Legislation to Save Lives – Passage of Critical Safety Law

More Than 280 NYers Died in Car Accidents Involving 16 & 17 Year Old Drivers From 2005-2009 - Over 46,000 Injured Poll: Nearly 75% of Teens Support Graduated Drivers Licensing Laws

Washington, D.C. – In honor of National Teen Driver Safety Week, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today called on her fellow Senators to join her in support of the Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection (STAND UP) Act, legislation she wrote to set minimum standards for states to enact Graduated Drivers License (GDL) programs that will prepare teens to be responsible drivers. Senator Gillibrand’s STAND-UP Act was included in the Senate Commerce Committee’s Highway Safety package in July, and now awaits Committee action.  This week, Senator Gillibrand wrote to the author’s of that legislation, Chairman Mark Pryor and Chairman John Rockefeller, urging action on these vital laws.     

“As the mother of two young boys, I understand that the safety and well-being of my children, like any parent is a top priority,” Senator Gillibrand said. “The STAND UP Act will provide young drivers the tools that they need to become safer and more intelligent drivers on our roads.  Having a national standard for safety for new young drivers will undoubtedly improve driving conditions for everyone and ultimately save lives.  New York should be seen as a leader in this movement to improve road safety through this legislation and Teen Driver Week certainly reminds us how necessary this truly is.” 

More than 280 New Yorkers died in car accidents involving sixteen and seventeen year old drivers from 2005 to 2009, and more than 46,000 were injured. Polling shows overwhelming support among America’s teenagers for GDLs. In fact, nearly 75 percent of teens approve of a single, comprehensive law that incorporates the key elements of GDL. 

National Standards for GDLs
GDLs are a proven 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 3-stage licensing process, from learner’s permit to intermediate state to full, non-restricted drivers licensing;
  • 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;
  • 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.

Currently, New York State already meets nearly all of these standards. Under the STAND UP Act, New York State would need to change their current regulations to require that an unrestricted license can only be acquired at age 18. Right now, that license can be acquired at age 17 in New York with a completed driver education course. 

Resources for States
The STAND UP Act would authorize $22 million in grants each year for two years to incentivize states to do the right thing and implement these life-saving laws making them eligible for additional federal resources to help put new standards in place – from enforcing standards, to training law enforcement, to publishing new educational materials. 

The STAND UP Act is supported by a coalition of groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), and the National Safety Council.