Pennsylvania bill limiting teen drivers advances

| 9/18/2007

A Pennsylvania House panel approved a bill that calls for tougher restrictions on the state’s youngest motorists in an effort to reduce distractions. State figures show there are about 113,000 licensed drivers under 18.

The House Transportation Committee voted unanimously to forward a bill to the House floor that would prohibit 16- and 17-year-old drivers from having more than one passenger under 18. Drivers would face $25 fines for each passenger over the limit.

Exceptions would be made for relatives under 18 in vehicles.

Sponsored by Rep. Katherine Watson, R-Bucks, the bill also would increase behind-the-wheel training requirements for aspiring drivers. Teens would be required to spend 65 hours practicing – up from 50 hours. Ten hours of nighttime practice and five hours of inclement weather instruction at the wheel would be required.

A separate provision in the bill – HB163 – would permit police to pull over vehicles with young drivers who aren’t buckled up. Passengers under 18 also would be required to buckle up. Drivers would face $10 fines for each seat-belt violation.

Supporters of the restrictions cite an insurance survey of students throughout the nation that found the risk of fatal accidents increases five times when teenagers drive with two or more other teens.

“Simply, this legislation is about safety ... Young drivers do not have enough experience behind the wheel, or fully developed cognitive skills to avoid risk-taking behavior on our roads and highways,” Watson said in a written statement.

Opponents had trouble with the exception made for family members.

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