Tougher teen driving rules OK’d in Illinois

| 8/22/2007

New laws in Illinois are intended to make the state’s roads a little safer. Another one allows tinted windshields on more vehicles.

The youngest drivers in the state will face the toughest sets of teen driving restrictions in the nation, under a bill signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich Monday, Aug. 20.

A recent study found that states implementing the strongest teen driver restrictions have reduced fatalities as much as 40 percent, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

With the backing of Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, teenage drivers have seen more restrictions put in place intended to help protect them and others on the state’s roadways.

The governor signed a bill into law in 2006 that doubled the amount of time teens must spend behind-the-wheel training with their parents to 50 hours. The graduated driver’s license program includes 10 hours of nighttime driving.

Illinois law also prohibits drivers younger than 18 from using cell phones while driving and limits the number of teenage passengers they can transport.

The bill – SB172 – signed this week extends a teen’s driver permit phase from three to nine months. It also requires that public schools provide six hours of instructor-supervised driving on streets.

Supporters of the plan said they would ask lawmakers for additional funding to cover the expense of road driving time.

Another provision in the bill makes the curfew an hour earlier for drivers under age 18. The cutoff time will move from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays. It will change from midnight to 11 p.m. on weekends.

Exceptions to the curfew will be made for teens driving to and from work or church, attending school activities or doing errands for their parents.

A separate provision extends from six months to one year the length of time for passenger limits on 16- and 17-year-old drivers. Exceptions are made for siblings.

The new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2008.

A separate bill signed into law prohibits drivers under age 19 from chatting on their cell phones or text messaging while at the wheel. The bill – SB140 – exempts emergency calls.

It also takes effect Jan. 1.

Another new law that takes effect the first of the year allows parents to review their teens’ driving records on the Internet. It is intended to help minors become better drivers.

Previously HB518, the new law will let parents review the driving records of their children until age 18.

Supporters say the law will encourage parents to become more involved with their young drivers by more closely overseeing their driving records. It also teaches kids to be more responsible behind the wheel, they say.

The teen driving rules are expected to affect about 300,000 young drivers in the state.

One other bill signed into law allows vehicles driven by people with sun-sensitive illnesses to have the windows tinted. The new law, previously HB536, expands the number of medical conditions that qualify people to have tinted windshields.

It allows anyone with a medical illness, ailment or disease that “would require the person to be shielded from the direct rays of the sun” to drive a car or truck with a tinted windshield. The new rule takes effect immediately.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Illinois in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor