Delaware bill would raise driving age for teens

| Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A recent string of crashes in Delaware involving teen drivers has legislators in the state looking for solutions.

House Republicans said they would introduce legislation in the coming weeks to raise the minimum driving age.

That idea, along with other new proposed driving rules, comes on the heels of several accidents since November involving teen drivers that killed 10 teenagers.

Current state law allows a person to obtain a learner’s permit at age 15 years and 10 months. The permit requires adult supervision for the first six months and prohibits unsupervised driving for the next six months from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

An effort proposed by Rep. Robert Valihura Jr., R-Talleyville, would start the restriction an hour earlier.

The Republican-led initiative would prohibit teens from obtaining a learner’s permit until their 17th birthday. The first six months still would be supervised and unsupervised night driving would be prohibited until age 18.

Restrictions on teen passengers would not be changed. Driver’s education also would remain a licensing requirement for anyone younger than 18.

The proposed measures unveiled March 24 include lowering the threshold for driver’s license points and penalties for motorists under age 22, and barring young drivers from carrying non-family, teen passengers at night.

House Majority Leader Wayne Smith has attached his name to an initiative likely to receive quite a bit of attention. He is proposing to establish an Internet-accessible database with the driving record of Delaware drivers younger than 26.

Smith, R-Brandywine, told The Associated Press it could help protect young people by allowing parents to determine whether they are hanging out with unsafe drivers.

Rep. Peter Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, said he understands the safety concerns on teen drivers. But raising the age limit by a year isn’t the answer, he said.

He told The News Journal the state should look more toward eliminating distractions, such as cell phones, and educating young drivers as best as possible.

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