Teen drivers need tougher restrictions

A bill looks to change Minnesota’s bad teen driving record.

Teenagers can be stubborn. They think they’re invincible, they like to take risks and sometimes they get distracted by things like cell phones and friends. While most make it through with only minor bumps and bruises, there are some whose lives are tragically cut short. Traffic accidents claim the most of these lives every year. And in Minnesota, teens are more likely than in any other state to be involved in a fatal car accident.

Many lawmakers believe Minnesota’s bad teen driving record is a result of its weak graduated license program. We’re one of only four states that doesn’t target restrictions on nighttime driving or the number of passengers allowed in the vehicle of a new driver.

These driving behaviors have been linked to fatal car accidents. Most accidents happen at night, for example, and adding another passenger in the car increases a teens’ risk of getting in an accident by 100 percent.

That’s why last week, the House passed a bill that will try to change Minnesota’s worst-state-for-teen driving record. Under the bill, risky behaviors for teen drivers would be restricted. They won’t be able to drive from midnight to 5 a.m. during their first six months of holding a license, except when traveling to school or work. It would also limit the number of people a new driver could have in the car. These provisions of the bill make clear sense. And other state’s who’ve enacted such restrictions have seen as much as a 40 percent decrease in teen related crashes.

Although Gov. Tim Pawlenty has promised to veto the bill because of certain provisions, with slight changes the bill should be cleared with no problem. The bill forces new drivers to complete 50 hours of in-car training – up from 30 hours – and requires parents to make a written log. We’d like to see the bill go back to the governor with these provisions lightened. Many single parent households simply don’t have the time for this task, and teens should be getting credit hours for take a driver’s ed course.

This bill seems like a no-brainer – and has been for 46 other states. We hope Minnesota lawmakers can work together to solidify a bill that will help keep our teenagers safe on the road.