New York increases regulations, requirements for teen drivers

Behind the wheel time is up for younger New York drivers looking to get their license, as are the number of restrictions they have on who they can have and what they can do in their car. Local law enforcement sees both developments as good things.

Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace told the Post-Journal that a "parent won't have to argue with them about when it's time to schedule that road test," and that "hopefully, in that time, they will learn to be watchful and defensive drivers that aren't easily distracted and are ready to be on the roads."

There are two major changes in the laws regarding motor vehicle operation by new drivers. One is an increase in supervised driving up to 50 hours, with 15 of those coming after sunset. The local motor vehicles office will require parents to provide a signed affidavit when scheduling a road test.

It also reduces the number of people under age 21 who are allowed in a car with a younger driver to one, although that doesn't matter as long as an adult is present.

New York state has a history of fairly strict laws for teens who recently completed driver education programs, and these are likely to increase as safety advocates point to the value of stricter enforcement. Other recently passed laws will affect more than just teens however.

Motorists of all ages who have been convicted of driving while intoxicated will be required to put an ignition interlock device on their car after legislators passed a bill last fall. The device prevents vehicles from being turned on if a person registers a blood alcohol content level of .02 or higher. However, some critics note that the device must be installed on all personal vehicles that the offender may drive, including family vehicles.

While county governments are attempting to get the law modified before it becomes enforced in August, the state so far hasn't expressed much interest in changing the laws. It's one more potential penalty that New York-based graduates of online driving schools face, as well as fines if they are driving between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. without a valid reason, such as a school function or work. Both require letters that can be shown to law enforcement agencies.

The same legislators are hard at work on increasing the fines involved in texting while driving, an issue where New York has been at the forefront. The current fine is fairly steep at $180, and the state is considering making it a primary offense, meaning that police can issue a ticket even if using a cell phone is a driver's only offense.

There are a lot of changes to get one's head around, and an online driving school may be the best fit, and not just for teens who are worried about passing written exams. Parents who may not be aware of the myriad changes to the driving laws could also benefit from following along with their youngsters.