Delaware bills target teen drivers

| 6/16/2006

Several efforts to improve safety on roads in Delaware remain under consideration in the statehouse with two weeks remaining in the regular session. The legislation would put various restrictions on teen drivers.

The changes were introduced last year in the wake of several fatal crashes involving teen drivers in the state.

Between November 2004 and June 2005, 14 people died on Delaware roads in crashes involving teen drivers, the Delaware State News reported.

Among the bills intended to strengthen teen driving restrictions is an effort that would increase the minimum age to obtain a learner’s permit from 15 years and 10 months to 16 years of age.

The number of passengers for beginning drivers would be reduced from two to one. Drivers also would be required to post a sign on the vehicle so police officers would know they are subject to the passenger constraint.

One other provision in the bill requires parents or guardians of teens with driving permits to sign a log verifying their child has completed 50 hours of actual driving, including 10 hours at night, during the first six months of supervised driving.

The House voted 34-4 June 13 to approve the bill without a provision that would have extended the permit program from 12 months to 18 months. The revised bill – HB256 – has been forwarded to the Senate for further consideration.

A separate bill that House lawmakers also approved this month would allow more students to take driver’s education in school. Sponsored by Rep. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, the bill would allow ninth-graders to take the class.

Currently, students must be in 10th grade before they can take the course. Under the bill, students would still need to be in 10th grade to receive driving permits.

Hocker’s bill – HB401 – has been sent to the Senate Education Committee.

Other driving bills under consideration include:

HB112 – increasing the minimum driving age by 14 months, to 17 years of 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;

HB127 – lowering the driving violation point threshold to suspend 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.