Teen driving bill passes Massachusetts House

| 7/14/2006

The Massachusetts House voted 141-5 to approve a bill that would increase driver training time for young drivers and toughen penalties. The bill has been forwarded to the Senate.

The push to strengthen the laws for teen drivers follows a wave of automobile wrecks that have killed young drivers throughout the state in recent months, the Boston Herald reported. Three out of 10 16-year-old drivers in the state reportedly get into serious accidents.

In an effort to protect children, the measure would double to 12 hours the length of time students must spend behind the wheel with an instructor. It would also increase the number of supervised hours new drivers must spend with parents or other experienced drivers from 12 hours to 40 hours.

The bill would also require parents or guardians of teens with driving permits to sign a log verifying their child has completed 30 hours of actual driving, up from the current 15. That requirement would increase to 40 hours if a child doesn’t complete an advanced driver training course, the Herald reported. Parents or guardians would be required to spend two hours with their teens in classroom instruction.

A provision that was dropped from the bill on the House floor sought to increase the minimum age for a junior operator’s license from 16½ years old to 17½ years old – which would have been the highest in the nation. It would also have risen the minimum age to get a learner’s permit by six months, to 16½.

Opponents said raising the driving age would hurt teens who drive to work and would punish all teen drivers.

New drivers caught speeding more than 10 mph over the speed limit would lose their license for 90 days. Repeat violators would face a one-year driving suspension. Existing Massachusetts law doesn’t mandate a loss of driving privileges on the first offense. However, repeat offenders lose their junior licenses for 180 days.

Massachusetts already has a graduated driver’s license program that mandates new drivers between the age of 16 years and 18 years cannot drive between midnight and 5 a.m. Young, new drivers cannot carry passengers under 18 – except family members – unless supervised by a parent, guardian or licensed driver.

The bill – H5064 – is in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.