Arkansas representative wants tougher teen driving rules

| 10/16/2007

If an Arkansas state lawmaker has his way, young drivers in the state will face tougher driving restrictions.

Rep. Gene Shelby, D-Hot Springs, said he is planning to introduce a bill during the 2009 regular session that would strengthen the state’s graduated driver’s license system. He said changes are needed because the state continues to rank high nationally in fatal wrecks involving teens, the Arkansas News Bureau reported.

Shelby said it would be nearly identical to a bill offered during the 2007 session that passed the Senate but failed in the House. That bill would have called for raising the age for a learner’s permit from 14 to 15.

For drivers younger than 18, it would have prohibited them from driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Exceptions would have been made for teens driving to and from work, attending school activities or for emergencies.

The bill also would have put limits on the number of minor passengers young drivers could have in their vehicles. Drivers younger than 18 would have been limited to transporting one minor passenger. Exceptions would have been made for relatives or if there were an adult in the vehicle.

Using cell phones or text messaging while behind the wheel also would have been no-no’s. One other provision would have permitted police to pull over drivers younger than 18 simply for not wearing a seat belt.

In the time leading up to the next session, Shelby said he would focus on communicating with fellow lawmakers about the benefits of the legislation.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor