It’s wait till next year for Alabama bill to restrict young drivers

| 6/17/2008

A bill in the Alabama Senate that has died sought to put additional restrictions on the state’s most inexperienced drivers.

Existing state law doesn’t set an age limit for passengers in vehicles driven by young drivers. It also allows up to four people to be in affected vehicles. The bill – HB312 – would have required drivers with learner’s permits or with less than a year’s experience behind the wheel to have licensed drivers at least 21 years old riding shotgun.

The Senate Commerce, Transportation and Utilities Committee didn’t take the bill up for consideration before the regular session wrapped up, effectively killing it. The House previously approved it.

Supporters said they wanted changes to driving rules because of the frequency of fatal wrecks involving teens. Only Wyoming has a higher death rate for teen drivers and passengers, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.

Sponsored by Rep. Mac Gipson, R-Prattville, the bill included a provision that would have limited young drivers to one passenger. Exceptions would have been made for family members.

The measure also would have mandated that drivers 16 years of age and some 17-year-old drivers be off the road before 10 p.m. on week nights and 11 p.m. on weekends. In addition, it would have prohibited drivers with graduated licenses from using mobile communications devices while operating vehicles.

Alabama law now requires drivers with less than a year of experience driving to be off the road by midnight. Exceptions are made for emergencies and driving to or from work, church or school-sponsored events.

Law enforcement would first have needed to pull over drivers for other infractions before ticketing them for being in violation of the teen driving rules.

The proposed limits on young drivers must wait until the 2009 regular session for further debate.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Alabama in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor