Proposal to Enhance Safety for Teen Drivers Passes House


Legislation to improve training, seatbelt law on way to governor’s desk

Harrisburg, PA – Legislation that seeks to improve highway safety by enhancing the state’s Graduated Driver’s License (GDL) law is on its way to the governor, said Reps. Mario M. Scavello (R-Monroe), Mike Peifer (R-Monroe/Pike/Wayne) and Rosemary M. Brown (R-Monroe/Pike), who all voted in favor of the bill.

House Bill 9, which passed the House on last Wednesday by a vote of 188-6, addresses many of the reasons why vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for teenagers. Earlier this year, PennDOT announced that in 2010, fatalities in crashes involving a 16- or 17-year-old driver increased 43 percent.

“One of the major reasons why teen drivers are at such a high risk for a serious or deadly crash is the prevalence of distractions,” Scavello said. “This bill aims to increase behind-the-wheel training and reduce the distractions caused by young passengers. I am pleased it is now on its way to the governor so that it can help make our roads and highways safer for everyone who travels them.”

Specifically, House Bill 9:

  • Limits the number of passengers to one under age 18 for the first six months after a junior driver is licensed.  Exceptions would exist for family members and if a parent or guardian is in the vehicle. After the first six months, the legislation restricts the number of passengers to three non-family members under age 18 if the driver has driven without incident, unless family or with a parent or guardian.
  • Increases behind-the-wheel training for permit holders from 50 to 65 hours, of which 10 of those hours must be logged after dark and five logged during inclement weather.
  • Makes the seat belt and child safety seat laws a primary offense for everyone under age 18 in a vehicle, including the junior driver.

The bill also notes that if the junior driver has been involved in a reportable incident for which it is determined the junior driver is partially or fully responsible, the driver would be limited to a single, non-family teen passenger.

“Also important to teen drivers and their passengers is the need to make sure they are buckled up,” Brown said. “Statistics show that more than half of teen driver and passenger deaths are the direct result of the failure to buckle up, and this legislation will help give law enforcement the tool they need to enforce the seatbelt law.”

In a statewide poll conducted earlier this year, residents in the northeastern corner of the state responded favorably to a teen passenger restriction law. The survey indicated that 78 percent of residents polled believe that restrictions of passengers in a vehicle driven by a holder of a junior driver’s license will help highway safety.

“Parents have told us that this type of legislation is needed to improve our state’s teen driving law, and numerous studies and transportation experts back up that claim,” Peifer said. “By increasing the number of hours a teen must log before getting his or her license and ensuring some of that training includes nighttime and inclement weather, we are helping teen drivers encounter situations they will face while on the roads.”

The governor has 10 days in which to sign House Bill 9 into law.