Delaware bills target teen drivers

| 4/6/2006

Several efforts to improve safety on roads in Delaware are under consideration in the statehouse. The legislation would put various restrictions on teen drivers.

The changes were brought up for consideration in the wake of several fatal crashes involving teen drivers in the state.

During a seven-month span dating back to late 2004, 14 people died on Delaware roads in crashes involving teen drivers, the Delaware State News reported.

House Majority Leader Rep. Wayne A. Smith, R-Brandywine, has attached his name to six of the seven bills aimed at teen drivers. Measures under consideration include:

HB256 – increasing the minimum age to obtain a learner’s permit from 15 years and 10 months to 16 years. The permit program would be 18 months long and the number of passengers would be reduced from two to one. Drivers also would be required to post a sticker or marker on the vehicle;

HB112 – increasing the minimum driving age by 14 months, to 17 years of age. Smith said 23 other states already have the same minimum age;

HB144 – banning radar detectors for drivers with a learner’s or driver’s education permit;

HB111 – establishing a searchable database on the state Web site to permit individuals to check driving records of Delaware drivers younger than 26. Smith told The Associated Press it could help protect young people by allowing parents to determine whether they are hanging out with unsafe drivers;

HB127 – lowering the driving violation point threshold to suspend newly licensed drivers younger than 22;

SB117 – restricting the number of passengers in a vehicle driven by someone with a permit. It also would extend the permit period if the driver’s permit is suspended. In addition, it would require all passengers to wear seat belts.

The only bill to be signed into law prohibits drivers with learner’s or driver’s education permits from talking on cell phones while behind the wheel.

The new law, previously HB63, allows drivers to use phones if the vehicles are stopped and off the road.

Delaware already has a graduated driver’s license program that mandates new drivers between the age of 15 years, 10 months and 18 years to be supervised by a parent, guardian or licensed driver for the first six months behind the wheel.