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Washington State Poll Reveals Desire for Stronger Teen Driving Laws

Across the country, states are attempting to make laws more stringent for younger drivers to counteract the perceived lack of safety of teen motorists. In Washington State, an insurance company-sponsored poll finds some support for extending restrictions.
PEMCO is Washington's largest insurer, so they might have a vested interest in improving the legal ramifications for teens who recently passed through driver ed programs. Still, the firm asked many residents, and about half said that they would support a bill that would make teen driver violations a primary offense.

The current laws stipulate that 16 and 17-year-olds cannot drive with friends under the age of 20, that they need to be accompanied by an adult between 1 and 5 a.m. and continue to do so for the first six months that they hold their license. The problem for police is that violations of either provision are considered secondary offenses and officers can only issue tickets in conjunction with other violations.

But half of Washingtonians feel that it should be a primary offense, meaning that law enforcement agents could ticket teens on the basis of those laws alone. It's not surprising then, that many parents in Washington already mandate that their own children follow the rules of the road in the state, and three in four even establish additional requirements for their children to be able to drive on their own.

The law, now nine years old, also increased the amount of behind the seat time required for teens to get their license as part of driver ed, including 50 hours of supervised driving, 10 of which must be at night. Teens in Washington who go to driving school would not likely find a law similar to that proposed by PEMCO an issue, however, considering that the law is already on the books. It would just be enforced more stringently.

That may not be the end of it, however, as graduated licensing programs that have become stronger in other states over the past several years have delivered positive results in reducing the number of accidents. One state that has made great strides is Massachusetts which updated its laws in 2006.

For example, the state cited 90-day license suspensions for first-time speeders under the age of 18, attend a driving school again and pay a $500 fee before they can get their license back. The statistics are startling: 20 teen-related fatal accidents occured the first year the law was in affect, then fifteen, and six last year according to the Boston Globe.

Accidents as a whole have also gone down, and legislators in Washington as well as throughout the country might be considering similar laws. Knowing what the penalties are and the reasons that police can stop you are solid reasons to attend a driving school. So, too, is the basis of understanding for teens so that they never have to worry about coming face to face with a member of law enforcement.

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