Teen driving efforts eyed in California

| 9/13/2005

Concerned about inadequate driver’s education in California , two state lawmakers say they want hearings early next year to gather information to reform training programs for young drivers.

Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, told The Sacramento Bee the current system of driver education and behind-the-wheel training “is not making the kind of dent in accident statistics we would like to see.”

State and national figures show that first-year teen drivers are involved in accidents at a rate four times greater than drivers in any other age group, the newspaper reported.

Torlakson and Assemblywoman Carol Liu, D-La Canada Flintridge, want to study why so many teens fail their driver’s license tests, as well as whether teens need more hours of driving practice and fewer hours in the classroom.

In the meantime, California lawmakers have sent a bill to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that would tighten up a teen driving rule intended to make the state’s roads safer.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Maze, R-Visalia, the bill would change current law – which forces 16- and 17-year-old motorists off the road from midnight to 5 a.m. – and start the curfew an hour earlier at 11 p.m. An exception would be made for young drivers accompanied by a licensed driver who was at least 25.

AB1474 also would bar teens of that age from transporting passengers under age 20 during the first year licensed, unless accompanied by a licensed driver who was at least 25. Under existing law, that restriction lasts for the first six months licensed.

Two other measures related to young drivers, however, failed to gain passage.

SB806, sponsored by Sen. Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco, sought to prohibit drivers from transporting other teens for the first year after they receive their driver’s licenses. Currently, young drivers cannot have other teens in their vehicle for the first six months licensed.

AB963, sponsored by Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, R-Cathedral City , would have prevented teens age 16 to 18 from using cell phones while driving.

The bills can’t be reconsidered until the Legislature reconvenes in January.