GENEVA—U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (IL-14) announced at a press conference at Geneva High School on April 20 that he will be the lead Republican sponsor on legislation to protect the driving public, particularly teenagers, through the nationwide adoption of Graduated Driver’s License (GDL) laws.
“I was proud to support the Graduated Driver’s License program in Illinois when I served in our state legislature, and I’m excited to take those same ideas to Washington, D.C. to help make our roads safer,” said Hultgren, a member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. “The statistics are telling. We know that motor vehicle accidents are the number-one killer of American teens, and that teen drivers comprise only 7 percent of drivers on the road, yet 20 percent of all highway fatalities occur in crashes involving teen drivers. Action must be taken to educate teen drivers and protect everyone on our nation’s roadways.”
The legislation, H.R. 1515, the Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection (STANDUP) Act of 2011, urges all states to adopt GDL laws that meet specific minimum requirements within three years. Those requirements include:
• A three-stage licensing process—learner’s permit, intermediate stage, unrestricted driver’s license
• Prohibits night-time driving in the intermediate stage when teens are driving by themselves for the first time
• Passenger restrictions during the learner’s permit and intermediate stage (no more than one nonfamily member under the age of 21 unless a licensed driver over age 21 is in the vehicle)
• Prohibits non-emergency use of cell phones during the learner’s permit and intermediate stages
• Learner’s permit begins at age 16 while the full licensure begins at age 18
• Any other requirement adopted by the Secretary of Transportation, including learner’s permit holding period at least six months; intermediate stage at least six months, at least 30 hours behind-the-wheel; supervised driving by licensed driver 21 years of age or older; automatic delay of full licensure if permit holder commits an offense, such as DWI, misrepresentation of true age, reckless driving, unbelted driving, speeding, or other violations as determined by the Secretary.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death of Americans between 15 and 20 years of age and that between 1999 and 2009, more than 90,000 Americans were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving teen drivers, an average of 155 deaths per week.
They also report that the fatality rate for teen drivers is four times higher than the rate for drivers between 25 and 70 years of age and that teenage drivers who are 16 years of age have a motor vehicle crash rate that is almost 10 times higher than the crash rate for drivers between 30 and 60 years of age.
“Between cell phones, GPS devices and satellite radio, today’s teen drivers are facing more distractions than the teens of prior generations,” Hultgren said. “Simply acclimating teen drivers to the responsibilities and rigors of the road saves lives, and Graduated Driver’s Licensing is a proven method to provide teens with the skills and experience they need to be out on the road safely.”
Hultgren added that according to the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State, teen driving deaths dropped by over 40 percent in Illinois in the first full year following the 2007 implementation of a stronger graduated driver licensing law.