Pennsylvania bills target teens, drunken drivers

| 7/26/2006

A couple of bills in the Pennsylvania House are intended to make the state’s roadways safer for truck drivers and all other motorists.

One measure is intended to keep repeat drunken drivers off the road.

Sponsored by Rep. Tom Gannon, R-Delaware, the bill proposes mandatory jail time for habitual drunken drivers and the forfeiture of vehicle involved. Offenders would face a minimum two-year sentence.

Currently, drivers found guilty of driving while impaired face misdemeanor charges that increase with added offenses, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Gannon’s bill would allow drivers found guilty of multiple offenses or with high blood-alcohol levels to face felony charges.

The bill – HB2598 – is in the House Judiciary Committee.

Another effort would toughen regulations for drivers 16 and 17 years old.

Sponsored by Rep. Katharine Watson, R-Bucks, the bill would restrict young drivers to one passenger under 18 at a time. Family members would be exempted from the passenger restriction.

Similar passenger limitations are in place in nearly 40 states.

Watson said the idea behind her bill is to reduce the amount of chatter, commotion and other “distractions” that hamper inexperienced drivers, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

State or local police also would be given authority to pull over young drivers for not wearing a seat belt. Pennsylvania law now requires offenders to be pulled over for another offense, such as speeding, before they can be ticketed for failure to buckle up.

One other provision in the bill would require aspiring drivers to spend more time practicing. Existing state law requires a permit holder to complete 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training, have their learner’s permit for six months before taking a driver’s exam and have an adult at least 21 years old with them in a vehicle.

Watson’s bill would boost the training time to 65 hours. It would include 10 hours of nighttime training and five hours of experience driving during inclement weather.

The teen driving bill – HB2684 – is in the House Transportation Committee.