Press Release

Key Senate Committee Passes Gillibrand’s National Teen Driving Safety Plan – Continuing Momentum to Save Lives

Dec 14, 2011

Washington, D.C. – Continuing the momentum to save more lives on America’s roadways, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced the Senate Commerce Committee has passed its version of the Transportation Authorization bill and includes Senator Gillibrand’s Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection (STAND UP) Act. The legislation would set national standards for states to implement Graduated Drivers License (GDL) programs that prepare teens to be safer, more responsible drivers.

The measure is part of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Improvement Act, which authorizes programs at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

“I have two young boys at home, and like any parent, their safety and well-being means everything to me,” Senator Gillibrand said. “As parents, we know that the day will come when each of our children will get behind the wheel of a car. As a parent and as a lawmaker, I want to make sure we take every reasonable safety precaution to ensure that our teen drivers are safe and well-prepared for the serious responsibility that comes with getting a license. The nation should follow New York’s lead and establish strong minimum requirements for graduated driver’s licenses in all 50 states.  This legislation will give young drivers better education and more experience before they get out on the roads, keeping us all safer and saving lives.”

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. America’s teenagers overwhelmingly support GDLs, according to polling. 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 grants to incentivize states to 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.