Tougher teen driving restrictions near passage in Illinois

| 7/17/2007

The youngest drivers in Illinois would face the toughest sets of teen driving restrictions in the nation, under a bill on Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s desk. House lawmakers unanimously approved the bill after the Senate overwhelmingly approved it on a 54-2 vote.

A recent study found that states implementing the strongest teen driver restrictions have reduced fatalities as much as 40 percent, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

With the backing of Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, teenage drivers have seen more restrictions put in place intended to help protect them and others on the state’s roadways.

The governor signed a bill into law last summer that doubled the amount of time teens must spend in behind-the-wheel training with their parents to 50 hours. The graduated driver’s license program includes 10 hours of nighttime driving.

Illinois law also prohibits drivers younger than 18 from using cell phones while driving and limits the number of teenage passengers they can transport.

The bill atop Blagojevich’s desk would extend a teen’s driver’s permit phase from three to nine months. The bill – SB172 – also would require that public schools provide six hours of instructor-supervised driving on streets.

Supporters of the plan said they would ask lawmakers for additional funding to cover the expense of road driving time.

Another provision in the bill would make the curfew an hour earlier for drivers under age 18. The cutoff time would move from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays. It would change from midnight to 11 p.m. on weekends.

Exceptions to the curfew would be made for teens driving to and from work or church, attending school activities or doing errands for their parents.

A separate provision would extend from six months to one year the length of time for passenger limits on 16- and 17-year-old drivers. Exceptions are made for siblings.

Teens also would be prohibited from chatting on their cell phones or text messaging while at the wheel.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Illinois in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor