House Bill 9, sponsored by state Rep. Kathy Watson, R-144, that aims to make the state’s roads and highways safer was passed by the House May 10 in a 175-21 vote.
“Two of the greatest safety concerns on our highways are young drivers who are distracted and who do not have the experience of more mature drivers,” Watson said in a release. “Passing this measure today puts Pennsylvania on a path of protecting all of our drivers and passengers and ensures that our state is appropriately responding to national traffic crash data by updating our laws.”
Watson’s legislation proposes increasing the behind-the-wheel training from 50 to 65 hours and requiring 10 of those hours to be at night and five during inclement weather.
In addition the bill would restrict the number of passengers for a driver under the age of 18 to one and exceptions exist for family members.
The legislation would also make it a primary offense for any person driving a vehicle where a passenger under 18 is not wearing a seatbelt. This means a law enforcement officer could pull the vehicle over if he or she suspects that someone does not have a seatbelt on.
“Vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for teenagers, due to both inexperience behind the wheel and distractions,” Watson said. “That’s why we want to upgrade the Graduated Driver License law for drivers with a junior license, those between the ages of 16 ½ and 18. This not only would make roads and highways safer for teen drivers and their passengers, but for everyone who use our roads and highways.”
Research has shown that GDL laws are associated with reduced teen driver fatalities. States with comprehensive GDL laws in place report as much as a 40 percent drop in the number of fatal crashes among 16-year-old drivers. Pennsylvania is one of only seven states without an updated GDL law.
This legislation has the strong support of residents statewide, as evidenced in a poll released last week.
Results indicated that nearly 60 percent of people who were polled in a recent statewide survey support tougher laws for holders of junior driver’s licenses.
In addition, 75 percent of poll participants agree that Pennsylvania should pass a law with teen driver limits, and 77 percent support increasing behind-the-wheel training at night and during inclement weather for teen drivers.
“This legislation is not intended to replace good parenting,” Watson said. “Many of the parents who are establishing ground rules for their teens’ driving habits are looking to the law to back up their decisions. This legislation clearly provides guidance to these parents and sends a message to teens that we want to help them become good, safe drivers.”
The bill now moves to the state Senate for consideration.
Read more: http://www.montgomerynews.com/articles/2011/05/23/public_spirit_willow_grove_guide/news/doc4dda791d18137947549509.txt