Strengthened Teen Drivers Education Laws in PA Postponed

A legislative move this week temporarily put a hold on a bill in the Pennsylvania State House that would have increased the restrictions on teen motorists after they had completed drivers ed training.

In a bid to make the voting easier on state representatives and senators, the language in House Bill 67 was married to one that would limit the ability for people to use cell phones while driving. In order for the politicians to understand both legislation at once, a vote was postponed for several weeks.

Both pieces of legislation would help to make recent driving school graduates stay safer on the road. Teen-specific restrictions would include the limits of one passenger per vehicle piloted by a person with a junior driver license for six months, and up to three passengers until they obtained their full privileges.

An editorial in the Delaware County Times noted that for teens aged 16-19, motor vehicle accident fatalities are among the leading causes of death, responsible for one in three fatalities in that age group. It also noted that while only one-sixth of the population, teens and young adults cause nearly one-third of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries, or roughly $26 billion in 2008.

Pennsylvanians have been worried that laws do not adequately provide for continued restrictions once students complete driving school, and reducing the number of occupants in the car may help limit distractions that could lead to crashes, according to some auto safety experts.

Other limits placed on teen drivers include a ban on any cell phone use, including making phone calls and sending text messages. House Bill 67 would also make not wearing a seat belt a primary offense, affording law enforcement the ability to pull younger drivers over even if they are otherwise following the law.

The moves come as part of a nationwide push towards increasing the safety of teen drivers on the road, but Pennsylvania state officials have been trying to fix the problem for years. In fact, cell phone legislation and updated teen driving laws have been bandied about in the capitol in Harrisburg for over a decade.

The delay is costing lives, according to two mothers who urged members of the legislature to act soon. Karen Cantamaglia, who lost her son in an accident where a teen driver had five occupants and lost control, said that the complaints of some parents who argued they might have to drive their teen children more often.

"I would sell my soul to the devil to have that inconvenience back in my life," she said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, urging lawmakers to "reach the decision that will be beneficial to the entire commonwealth."

It's also a matter of numbers for Lacey's Law, named after the teen who died in a prom night crash. Fatal crash risks increase drastically as the number of occupants in a teen driver's vehicle go up, according to pediatrician Flaura Winston noted to the newspaper.