Teen driving deaths down after new license rules

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(Host) According to a new report, Vermont has one of the lowest death rates for teen drivers in the country. This represents a significant change from several years ago. Vermont Highway safety officials say the state’s new graduated license law is a big reason why the trend has changed and they want to expand the law.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) In the late 1990s, Vermont had the highest rate in the country for teen driving fatalities when alcohol was a factor in the crash. In response to this development, the Legislature several years later passed a graduated license law.

The new law required additional supervised practice driving time during the day and the night time for young drivers with permits. It also prohibited a young driver from having friends in the car for the first three months after obtaining a junior license.

Chuck Satterfield is a spokesperson for the Governor’s Highway Safety Committee. He thinks the new graduated license law has been a key factor in reversing the death rate for young drivers:

(Satterfield) “Yes, it is. A few years back Vermont passed a graduated driver’s license requiring more training time, more time with a qualified driver and safer driving habits for teenage drivers. Probably the biggest incentive is if you get one three-point or higher violation or accumulate six points, your license is gone, it gets suspended for 90 days. That has a definite impact on young drivers.”

(Kinzel) Satterfield would like to add some new restrictions to the law. He says his organization is strongly backing a new bill that would prohibit teen drivers under the age of 18 from driving between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.:

(Satterfield) “Model legislation shows that night time restriction is very effective as well. The highest crash rates for teen drivers in Vermont is right after school between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., but the highest violation rate is after 11 p.m. at night when kids are out cruising the streets and driving unsafely. So a night time restriction that limits when you can drive and who can be in the car is shown to be very effective.”

(Kinzel) Satterfield says the legislation does include an exemption for young drivers who are traveling to or from work after 11 p.m. The proposal is being reviewed by the House Transportation committee.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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