Reducing car accidents: Legal restrictions for safer teen driving

In August 2008 months of work by Connecticut's Teen Driving Task Force culminated when a new teen driving law took effect.

Over four years later, Connecticut has come out near the top in two national studies on teen driving safety. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the Governors Highway Safety Association found an alarming 11 percent increase nationwide in traffic deaths involving 16- and 17-year-old drivers. However, teen driver deaths in Connecticut have gone down by 91 percent over the past ten years.

The AAA and GHSA studies recognized Connecticut's strict restrictions on teen passengers as an important factor in preventing fatal accidents. The studies indicated that risk of a fatal car accident went up as the number of teens in a car increased.

Connecticut's 2008 law

Besides passenger restrictions, the 2008 teen driving law made other changes to increase safety. Fines have gone up for violating the passenger restriction and for several other violations.

Educational requirements have also expanded. Driver training courses must include 40 hours of behind-the-wheel training, double the previous requirement. Before their teen can take a driver's license test, parents are required to take a class as well, a two-hour course covering teen driver laws.

Parents must also be involved when a young driver's license is restored after a suspension. Both the 16- or 17-year-old and a parent or legal guardian must show up in person and sign a statement acknowledging that the license has been reinstated.

License suspensions are tougher. A 30-day suspension can be imposed when a teen driver violates graduated license provisions or cell phone laws. Speeding garners a 60-day suspension. A lengthy six-month suspension is the penalty for a first-time racing or reckless driving offense.

Curfew for young drivers is an hour earlier than under previous law. Drivers under age 18 cannot drive after 11:00 pm unless there is an exception because of school, employment or a religious reason.

Reminders during National Teen Safe Driving Week

In October a number of statewide events were held during National Teen Safe Driving Week. This annual nationwide program was observed with appearances at Connecticut high schools by the State Attorney General and representatives of the Connecticut State Police, the Department of Motor Vehicles and other agencies. Peer members of the DMV Commissioner's Advisory Committee on Teen Safe Driving were also on hand.

Connecticut's favorable ranking in the national surveys is certainly reason to celebrate, and support for the 2008 law changes that made that ranking possible is high. Parents of teenage drivers are now more knowledgeable about the law, according to a review done by the state.

Of course, accidents do still happen, and it is reassuring to know that competent Connecticut personal injury attorneys are available to assist when anyone hurt in an accident must seek compensation for injuries.