Massachusetts governor signs teen driving bill

| 1/4/2007

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has signed a bill into law increasing driver training time for young drivers in the state.

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

The bill - H5378 - moved to the governor's desk after the House and Senate agreed on a compromise version of the legislation that removes some controversial provisions, such as a ban on cell phones and an older driving age.

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

Parents or guardians of teens with driving permits are required to sign a log verifying their child has completed 40 hours of actual driving, up from the current 15, the Herald reported. Parents or guardians will be required to receive two hours of instruction on the state's driver education curriculum.

New drivers caught speeding will lose their license for 90 days. Repeat offenders 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.

The new law also includes deterrents on drag racing.

Those with learner's permits or junior operating licenses caught drag racing will have their driving privileges suspended for a year and pay up to $750 in fines and fees. Repeat offenders will face a three-year suspension and double the fines.

The new penalties take effect March 31. The new training requirement begins Sept. 1.