Pennsylvania bill would limit teen drivers

| 11/5/2007

A bill on the move in Pennsylvania calls for tougher restrictions on the state’s youngest motorists in an effort to reduce driver distractions. Records show there are about 113,000 licensed drivers younger than 18 in the state.

Sponsored by Rep. Katherine Watson, R-Bucks, the bill would prohibit 16- and 17-year-old drivers from having more than one passenger younger than 18. Drivers would face $25 fines for each passenger over the limit.

Exceptions would be made for relatives younger than 18.

The House Transportation Committee previously voted to advance the bill to the chamber floor for initial consideration. It since has moved to the House Appropriations Committee for further consideration.

The bill – HB163 – includes a provision that 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 would permit police to pull over vehicles with young drivers who aren’t buckled up. Passengers younger than 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.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor